SETI reveals plan to scan the skies for alien signals

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute has launched a new campaign in hopes to radically improve our ability to detect signals from advanced alien civilizations.

Despite decades probing the skies for signs of intelligent life, scientists have yet to discover extraterrestrial beings – but, if they are out there, the experts say they could be ‘pinging’ Earth with pulses of light that go undetected by current instruments.

With the new Laser SETI project, however, that could soon change.

In what would be the first ever continuous survey of the entire night sky, Laser SETI aims to create a world-wide network of specialized cameras, allowing scientists to detect alien signals shorter than a millisecond.

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In what would be the first ever continuous survey of the entire night sky, Laser SETI aims to create a world-wide network of specialized cameras, allowing scientists to detect alien signals shorter than a millisecond

In what would be the first ever continuous survey of the entire night sky, Laser SETI aims to create a world-wide network of specialized cameras, allowing scientists to detect alien signals shorter than a millisecond

HOW IT WILL WORK 

Laser SETI would use astronomy-grade cameras with a large field of view.

A specialized processing system would allow them to read out the camera more than 1,000 times per second, according to the project’s page.

It would also rely on specialized transmission grating to distinguish the light from other sources in a technique known as ‘slitless spectroscopy.’

The cameras would be able to look in all directions at once.

Each observatory could use a handful of these devices – and, with 6-8 observing stations around the world, the scientists could continuously monitor both hemispheres of the sky.

The experts liken our current observation techniques to using tweezers to find a needle in a haystack.

At the moment, studies searching for alien signals focus on just one star system at a time.

‘Powerful lasers for signalling could be built by any advanced society,’ says Dr Jill Tarter, Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI, in a video on the campaign.

‘They could use them to propel their spacecraft. 

'And the thing is, that brief flashes of light shorter than the blink of an eye could be in our skies right now and we wouldn’t know it.’

Through the $100,000 campaign launched on Indiegogo, the institute hopes to develop the first two cameras, allowing them to localize targets and validate the algorithm and distribution of potential signals.

Through the $100,000 campaign launched on Indiegogo, the institute hopes to develop the first two cameras. A prototype is shown

Through the $100,000 campaign launched on Indiegogo, the institute hopes to develop the first two cameras. A prototype is shown

The system would use astronomy-grade cameras with a large field of view.

And, a specialized processing system would allow them to read out the camera

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