Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

We're All Ears: Listening For ET

Date:
January 5, 2005
Source:
University Of California, Berkeley
Summary:
The SETI Institute predicts that we'll detect an extraterrestrial transmission within twenty years. If that turns out to be true, it'll probably be the folks at UC Berkeley's Hat Creek radio observatory who will have heard the call.

Three prototype radio dishes now in place at Hat Creek Observatory in northern California. By 2007, 350 of these 6.1-meter-diameter dishes will be assembled to form the Allen Telescope Array, the largest radio array in the world.
Credit: Courtesy of Radio Astronomy Laboratory

The SETI Institute predicts that we'll detect an extraterrestrial transmission within twenty years. If that turns out to be true, it'll probably be the folks at UC Berkeley's Hat Creek radio observatory who will have heard the call. Right now, the Allen Telescope Array of more than three-hundred dishes is under construction at Hat Creek five hours north of San Francisco. Within a year, the first thirty dishes will be operational, forming the basis of a giant ear that listens for intelligent beings in space while simultaneously gathering data for groundbreaking astronomy research.

William "Jack" Welch, UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and astronomy, has been a driving force in the design and construction of the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) since the project first got off the ground five years ago as a joint effort between UC Berkeley and the SETI Institute. Named for major donor Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, the array will eventually consist of 350 6.1-meter radio dishes electronically networked together into a radio telescope with unprecedented sensitivity. Precisely distributed across 2.6-acres on the Hat Creek grounds, the combined dishes will have far greater sensitivity than much more expensive 100-meter telescopes.

The SETI project scours millions of radio channels for narrow-band signals, indicative of intelligent origin. It's like listening for a station as you twist your car radio's tuning knob past all the static. Until now, SETI has used limited time from myriad radio telescopes around the world, limiting the number of stars that can be observed. However, the ATA will be dedicated to the project, speeding up the SETI search by a factor of 100. Meanwhile, the unique design of the system enables astronomers to monitor a huge range of wavelengths to observe other cosmic phenomena simultaneously with the SETI search.

"SETI is admittedly a long-shot," says Welch, holder of UC Berkeley's first Chair in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. "I don't have the patience to do only that, so it appeals to me to have a steady flow of other data for us to study as well."

For example, Welch and his colleagues will use the array to make a cosmological map of atomic hydrogen, the most abundant element we know of. Indeed, the visible universe may be composed of up to ninety-percent hydrogen. Determining its spatial distribution in nearby galaxies could provide insight into the evolution of the cosmos and the mysteries of dark matter.

"We'll be able to look halfway back to the beginning of the universe," Welch says. "The ability to observe that far back into time is limited right now."

To crank up the telescope's sensitivity, Welch and his colleagues devised a bit of ingenious antenna technology. In traditional pyramid-shaped antennas like those used in the ATA, the signal is picked up at the tip of the structure, called the feed, and runs down wires to the receiver. The problem, Welch explains, is that much of the signal gets lost along the way. To keep the signal as pure as possible, the Berkeley researchers shoehorned the receiver components inside the feed itself.

"It's just one new wrinkle for technology that was originally developed in the 1950s, but it enables our feed to essentially have no limitation on bandwidth," Welch says.

Right now, just three prototype dishes are being put through their paces at Hat Creek. In the next few months though, the researchers will install more than two-dozen others, nearly one dish a day. By Summer, Welch hopes this first small array will be scanning stars many light-years away. Whether ET is intelligent enough to call remains to be seen, or rather heard, but Welch is convinced that there's something out there.

"The recent discovery of planets around many nearby stars is a strong argument that our solar system isn't really unique at all," he says. "That in itself makes it almost certain that there are nearby planets with some kind of life on it."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of California, Berkeley. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of California, Berkeley. "We're All Ears: Listening For ET." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 January 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050104104855.htm>.
University Of California, Berkeley. (2005, January 5). We're All Ears: Listening For ET. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050104104855.htm
University Of California, Berkeley. "We're All Ears: Listening For ET." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050104104855.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

This Week @ NASA, July 25, 2014

This Week @ NASA, July 25, 2014

NASA (July 25, 2014) Apollo 11 celebration, Next Giant Leap anticipation, ISS astronauts appear in the House and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space to Ground: Coming and Going

Space to Ground: Coming and Going

NASA (July 25, 2014) One station cargo ship leaves, another arrives, aquatic research and commercial spinoffs. Questions or comments? Use #spacetoground to talk to us. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
How A Solar Flare Could Have Wrecked Earth's Electronics

How A Solar Flare Could Have Wrecked Earth's Electronics

Newsy (July 25, 2014) Researchers say if Earth had been a week earlier in its orbit around the sun, it would have taken a direct hit from a 2012 coronal mass ejection. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

AP (July 23, 2014) The Progress 56 cargo ship launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday. NASA says it will deliver cargo and crew supplies to the International Space Station. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins