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Earth Space Science

Search For Alien Life On 86 Planets Begins 248

Posted by samzenpus
from the is-anybody-out-there dept.
liqs8143 writes "Astronomers from the United States have begun searching for alien life on 86 possible earth-like planets. A massive radio telescope that listens for signs of alien life is being used for this project. These 86 planets are short-listed from 1235 possible planets detected by NASA's Kepler telescope. The mission is part of the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project, launched in the mid 1980s. A giant dish pointing towards each of the 86 planets will gather 24 hours of data, starting from this week."
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Search For Alien Life On 86 Planets Begins

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  • by Beliskner (566513) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @03:27PM (#36135148) Homepage
    I would first search the exoplanets pointed to by the most interesting crop circles from the global crop circles database [cropcircleresearch.com] why do the hard work when the aliens have done it for us, just draw a line from the centre of the Earth, through the crop circle to the appropriate starsystem
    • Re:crop circles (Score:5, Insightful)

      by supertrinko (1396985) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @03:35PM (#36135216)
      Have you factored the rotation of the earth into this plan of yours?
      • by Beliskner (566513) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @04:20PM (#36135452) Homepage

        Have you factored the rotation of the earth into this plan of yours?

        The aliens would probably expect us to be able to solved all trivial problems like that.

        • by elrous0 (869638) *

          Duh, you just use the time of day and year when the last local redneck was anally-probed. Do they have to spell it out for you?

      • by donaldm (919619)

        Have you factored the rotation of the earth into this plan of yours?

        Not only the is Earth is revolving on its axis but it is also revolving around our sun in an elliptical orbit and our sun is actually revolving around our galactic hub. I think it would be allot more accurate to use a blindfold and pins on a galactic map rather then rely on crop circles of which many have been proved to be hoaxes [cropcirclesecrets.org] :)

    • Re:crop circles (Score:4, Insightful)

      by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @03:35PM (#36135220) Homepage

      I would first search the exoplanets pointed to by the most interesting crop circles from the global crop circles database [cropcircleresearch.com] why do the hard work when the aliens have done it for us, just draw a line from the centre of the Earth, through the crop circle to the appropriate starsystem

      So the aliens are coming down to Earth from hundreds of light years away, and leaving hints in crop circles about what planets they are coming from instead of just saying hi? And they happen to use a calling card that is easily duplicated by low level technology? And the aliens happened to start in a handful of Western countries and then spread their message around the globe?

      I was talking to my barber a few days ago. Nice chap by the name of Occam. He had some interesting things to say about this sort of claim.

      • So the aliens are coming down to Earth from hundreds of light years away, and leaving hints in crop circles about what planets they are coming from instead of just saying hi?

        They wanted to make sure they only had to deal with the smart people.

        • Re:crop circles (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @04:27PM (#36135480)

          Hmm... odd, most reports about contacts have been from some hillbillies high on moonshine.

          • by rhook (943951)

            There are hundreds of reports of UFOs from pilots who flew during WWI and WWII (the so called 'Foo Fighters'). Not to mention all the reports from Naval officers of USOs, UFO reports from astronauts, pilots, and mass sightings of UFOs over major cities. Lets also not forget about the UFOs that were seen over the US Capitol in 1952. President Truman even issued a shoot down order. I guess they were all drunken hillbillies too? Any logical person has to admit that there is something out there.

            https://secure.w [wikimedia.org]

            • by elrous0 (869638) *

              No, those were Soviet spycraft and secret U.S. spycraft. Do you think it's a coincidence that the vast majority of these "sightings" happened at the height of the Cold War near U.S. military bases? The military wasn't covering up little green men, they were covering up their spy gear.

        • by mdm42 (244204)

          They wanted to make sure they only had to deal with the smart people.

          Not much chance of that on this planet.

      • by Time_Ngler (564671) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @04:10PM (#36135400)

        It's obviously a project being run by an alien bureaucratic agency of some kind. Probably has been running for centuries to keep the "wooden board and rope" skilled aliens employed.

        • It's obviously a project being run by an alien bureaucratic agency of some kind. Probably has been running for centuries to keep the "wooden board and rope" skilled aliens employed.

          LoL. I get an image of a flying saucer hovering over a farm and beaming down a team of Greys with ropes and boards, who quickly press out the design they've been given. Then it's beam-them-up, and a smoke break while on the way to the next farm.

        • by SomePgmr (2021234)
          Local # 299,792,458 - Intergalactic Crop Stompers Union?

          Wonder how long you have to be on the job before you get to be the one holding the clipboard.
      • So the aliens are coming down to Earth from hundreds of light years away, and leaving hints in crop circles about what planets they are coming from instead of just saying hi?

        What makes you think that the crop circles are location hints and aren't the alien's way of just saying "hi"? I suppose you'd just land somewhere, pop open the hatch and speak. That's the obvious way to your naked ape mind. However, that may not be obvious to an alien species. It might even be considered extremely rude and aggressive. Instead, they leave sophisticated artwork in fields (helped along by a bunch of drunken art majors)

      • "I was talking to my barber a few days ago. Nice chap by the name of Occam. He had some interesting things to say about this sort of claim."

        My barber came from england hes a bit odd, last name Todd used to live on fleet street very particular about his tools but does give a nice shave.

        anyway i think he and Occam should talk tools sometime.

      • That whoosing sound you heard was the GP's joke flying over your head. It's amazing how so many otherwise intelligent geeks have no sense of humor, or a broken humor detector at the very least.

      • by theNAM666 (179776)
        Your objection is neatly address in the works of Douglas Adams, I believe. However Adam's theory suggests the the circles are oriented in a manner most likely to fuck with human beings.
      • And the aliens happened to start in a handful of Western countries and then spread their message around the globe?

        Do you really think that when crop circles were an unknown phenomenon and one would appear in Elbonia someone would rush to report that all over Europe? Only when the phenomenon was recognized did reports of the occurrences spread outside of the third world.

        I'm not actually suggesting that crop circles are an extraterrestrial phenomenon. I am simple stating that just because you don't hear about something doesn't mean that it doesn't happen.

      • by Surt (22457)

        That is how they say hi. Just because your primitive mind is having a hard time grasping it doesn't make it any less obvious as a universal form of greeting.

      • by terjeber (856226)
        Irony - definition, something that you can stick a fridge magnet to.
    • Re:crop circles (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nidi62 (1525137) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @03:42PM (#36135252)

      why do the hard work when the people with rope and wooden boards have done it for us,

      Fixed that for you

    • Its a nice theory. Superluminal corkscrew gravity waves have been considered as a communication tool for some time now.

      Problem is that they are also generated by black holes as their axis sweeps across us. They are not an indication of intelligent life.
    • Lame! That site hasn't been updated since 2008. Either that, or that's when the aliens stopped making crop circles.

    • I would first search the exoplanets pointed to by the most interesting crop circles from the global crop circles database [cropcircleresearch.com] why do the hard work when the aliens have done it for us, just draw a line from the centre of the Earth, through the crop circle to the appropriate starsystem

      I forget, is that done using Eastern Standard Time?

  • Open to the world? So all us nerds can search and sift through it with you using, for once, not only our bandwidth to help you Mr. Seti, but also our minds.

    • Re:Accessible data? (Score:5, Informative)

      by belthize (990217) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @03:43PM (#36135256)

      Data from all NSF funded instruments are in the public domain after a 'suitable' period for the primary investigator who proposed the actual science with the instrument has had crack at it.

      For the telescopes this tends to be 1 year from observing, after that the data is available to all. It sounds like the data from this project will wave that 1 year period and be available for SETI@home as soon as it's done.

      • by belthize (990217)

        Bah

        Here's a comma or two, ',,,' to insert as you see fit, s/has had/to have a.

        • Apart from using wave instead of waive your post was fine; don't worry about commas. You might want to rephrase that first sentence though.
  • by Dutchmaan (442553) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @03:30PM (#36135166) Homepage
    Just be sure we're up on the latest copyright laws from alien worlds. We wouldn't want to get some giant metallic radiation sphere orbiting our planet as a cease and desist order!
  • by rubycodez (864176) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @03:32PM (#36135182)
    we need to take spectroscopic measurements of earth-sized and super-earth-sized planets to detect evidence of life's biochemistry. But our short-sited congress cancelled the Terrestrial Planet Finder. The most monumental scientific discovery of mankind would be life elsewhere, it will need a little investment which is so very minuscule compared to the money we waste on enriching mega-corporations, imperialism and warmongering.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Short sighted? Or did they think ahead and realize that finding life bearing worlds hurts their religious voters?

      • The are short sighted, aliens would allow them to dump money into the military like nothing else.
  • What exactly.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by slackzilly (2033012) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @03:33PM (#36135192)
    ..are the signs of alien life they will listen for?
    • by linuxguru (142002)

      sort of like 'I Love Lucy' but in shrieking, alien speak.

      • by Americano (920576)

        I always imagined it'd be more like the Honeymooners, but with the character of Ralph Kramden shouting "To the Earth, Alice! To the Earth!"

    • Re:What exactly.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by jcampbelly (885881) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @03:54PM (#36135318)

      Over the planet's transit over the face of the star, from our angle, the light interacts with the atmosphere of the planet before passing through to be seen by our telescopes. The light is broken down into component frequencies to determine the chemicals present and their relative concentrations in the atmosphere. Some chemical signatures can be understood as the the result of natural processes, while others do not seem to occur without the influence of biological processes. We are looking for 'unnatural atmospheres' modified by exotic processes that cannot be readily explained under natural conditions.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Over the planet's transit over the face of the star, from our angle, the light interacts with the atmosphere of the planet before passing through to be seen by our telescopes. The light is broken down into component frequencies to determine the chemicals present and their relative concentrations in the atmosphere. Some chemical signatures can be understood as the the result of natural processes, while others do not seem to occur without the influence of biological processes. We are looking for 'unnatural atmospheres' modified by exotic processes that cannot be readily explained under natural conditions.

        So the TLDR version is we're watching for a sudden methane (etc) signature for an instant as the planet transits its star? Why watch for 24 hours, then, assuming the orbit has been well characterized?

        • They're going to take a while to capture the data on each planet, since they can't watch continuously with an earthbound telescope. They may only have a window of a few days to capture a transit on some target planets, so it will take multiple transits to get that much data for all of them (the project will last a year). I believe they get the most valuable data when the planet first passes into the star's disk and then again as it leaves, as this gives some sense of differentiation between different parts

      • Over the planet's transit over the face of the star, from our angle, the light interacts with the atmosphere of the planet before passing through to be seen by our telescopes. The light is broken down into component frequencies to determine the chemicals present and their relative concentrations in the atmosphere. Some chemical signatures can be understood as the the result of natural processes, while others do not seem to occur without the influence of biological processes. We are looking for 'unnatural atmospheres' modified by exotic processes that cannot be readily explained under natural conditions.

        Hope they're looking at some seriously red-shifted planets, if they're trying to look at light with a radio telescope.

      • by rrohbeck (944847)

        So what they're looking for is "alien life according to our preconceived notions"?

        • They have to. They can't look for signs that they don't know about.
        • by chill (34294)

          Well, if we just focus on "non-random noise", any patterns we find would be a big hint towards life -- as a form we know or not.

          We're just looking for "signal". Wow! [wikipedia.org]

      • by JoeRobe (207552)

        Do you happen to have a reference for this? I have never heard of radio astronomy being used to detect molecular signatures (frequently microwave and mm-wave, but not radio). The molecular signatures during solar transit to which you are referring have typically been studied using optical and infrared telescopes, since the 200-20000 nm range is the region in which vibrational and electronic transitions occur.

        I figured they were looking for classic radio-frequency patterns, much like the ones we're constan

    • by l0ungeb0y (442022)

      Farts... that's right, farts. We're too far away to detect methane trace elements, but with current advances in super-flatulentelescopy, we can now detect any gas passing that may be happening across vast distances of space.

    • by w0mprat (1317953)
      Pointless. If our own technological civilisation is anything to go by, any radiowaves broadcast into space is a brief aberation, as more sophisticated communication becomes more efficient, lower power and increasingly inward angled.

      Unless they are specifically beaming something very powerful in our direction and have been doing it for million years, we just wont see it.

      Has anyone done the math on if it's even possible for typical terrestrial radio transmissions to be detectable above background noise a
  • by lennier1 (264730) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @03:55PM (#36135328)

    They'll intercept transmissions of our reality TV shows, decide that something like that can't be allowed to pollute the universe and then proceed to nuke the whole planet from orbit.

  • by belthize (990217) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @04:00PM (#36135348)

    Not sure why the author felt it was necessary to repeatedly reference 'a radio telescope in rural West Virginia' without giving an
    actual link or reference to the GBT instead of yet another self referential physorg link.

    The Green Bank Telescope GBT (http://www.gb.nrao.edu/) is a very impressive instrument just from an engineering stand point.
    If you're even in the area it's well worth visiting though it is a bit off the beaten path.

    With it's spectrometer (http://www.gb.nrao.edu/gbsapp/) it's also a good instrument for interstellar medium (ISM) biochemistry surveys. That may be a more fruitful area of study unless of course somebody does pick up the Ff99x22dddlw race's version of an Olympic broadcast.

  • Damn! Alien sweeps week was last week. Nothing on but reruns now.

  • No alien life would intentionally broadcast it's planets location. They and we will send unmanned probes to interesting places for research. And then we would find a way to leverage the nature of the natural phenomenon to embed a signal. It's not inconceivable that someday we might be able to modulate a sun to transmit a signal on it's light. The place to look for signals is where you would be interested in looking anyway.

    • by PPH (736903)

      No alien life would intentionally broadcast it's planets location.

      No iPhones there?

      Yet.

    • by peragrin (659227)

      you do realize there is a 30 light year sphere around earth of radio signals which point right back at us.

      • by Henriok (6762)
        30 years? I do believe that radio communications are older than 30 years. Try about 100 years.
        • by peragrin (659227)

          It took until the 1930's for radio transmissions of decent power. More modern transmissions are digital and more directed. Our radio shell will be actually getting smaller.

          • by rubycodez (864176)
            We still have many one to three megawatt HF transmitters which are not going away any time soon
  • Hopefully, we hear "We are here, we are here we are HERE."

    Not "Boil that dust-speck, boil that dust-speck, BOIL!"

  • News from Seti@Home (Score:4, Informative)

    by ah42 (109096) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @05:02PM (#36135664)

    From the relevant thread [berkeley.edu] over at Seti@Home:

    "Grad student Andrew Siemion reports that new modifications to a data recorder at Green Bank that we need for our Kepler SETI observations are now complete, thanks to a huge amount of help from Paul Demorest, a former grad student and one of initial authors of AstroPulse. Our first hour of test time is scheduled for this Saturday, 17:30 EDT. We'll be observing with 450 seconds per target on 90 Kepler field stars with interesting planet candidates (~habitable zone, ~Earth size, ~Earth period, ~several planets), then do a raster scan of the entire Kepler field. " - Eric Korpela

  • How far away are these planets I wonder? What would they see (assuming there's life there) if they did a similar experiment and pointed a radio telescope at us - based on previous comments if they are more that 100 light years away (I assume they are) they would get nothing!
  • Earth-like planets? Carbonists! Discrimination! Unfair!
  • I, of course, submitted a direct link to the Berkeley press release [berkeley.edu] but apparently the Slashdot editors decided the one that was most wrong was the one to pick. First, SETI isn't a project, it's a field of study conducted by a lot of institutions. Nobody would talk about "the Physics Project started 2100 years ago by Pythagoras" when describing a particle accelerator.

    This project in particular, is conducted by the Berkeley SETI group [berkeley.edu] which is known for their SETI@home project [berkeley.edu], Astropulse search for radio [berkeley.edu]

  • Maybe I am not fully understanding how SETI works, even though I use the home client, but this has always really caught me as strange. Lets say an alien world is actually broadcasting. Not only would they have to be broadcasting at the exact time we are looking for them (or rather, how ever many lightyears ago relevant to the star's distance), but the planet would have to be in view of the earth at the time, their transmisions would have to be able to penetrate both their atmosphere and ours, and they would

  • Is this telescope even capable of detecting Earth-type leaky RF signals at such a great distance?

    And if it's not, isn't this like cupping your ear and hoping to hear conversations in China?

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