Bruce Dorminey | Science

I cover over-the-horizon technology, aerospace and astronomy.

Using one-meter class telescopes at Las Cumbres Observatory in Chile, astronomers are targeting the whole disk of the nearby Andromeda Galaxy in what is arguably the most ambitious optical SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) campaign ever undertaken. It’s part of a trillion-planet survey led by the University of California in Santa Barbara.

The survey includes mass targeting of Andromeda, the Milky Way’s nearest grand spiral neighbor, only 2.5 million light years distant, as well as other nearby galaxies and targets within our own galaxy.

The Andromeda Galaxy (M31).CREDIT: WIKIPEDIA

“There are about one trillion stars and hence planets in Andromeda,” Philip Lubin, an experimental cosmologist, and professor of physics at the University of California in Santa Barbara, told me. “This survey looks at more than a million times more sources than typical radio SETI surveys. We can greatly increase the number with larger surveys.”

Lubin hopes that any alien civilization would try to announce their presence via an arrayed, directed energy beam; one that had been operational for long enough to be detected by a civilization like our own.

Lubin and colleagues are admittedly impatient. So, unlike conventional SETI efforts which focus on only a small part of sky or a few stars at the time, this team is assuming that any advanced alien civilization might use high-powered signaling to flag us down. In theory, such aliens might not only calculate how to best target swaths of sky in our galaxy from outside the Milky Way but have signals that would emit a signature, unlike any naturally-occurring emissions. Thus, they would automatically be noticed. Read More