Scientists find a way to speed up the search for alien civilizations

Over the past five decades, there has been a steadily growing amount of evidence that the components and conditions necessary for the existence of life are quite widespread in the Universe. This again raises one of the most important questions for humanity: are we really alone in the boundless cosmos?

Antennas of the LOFAR complex. Source: LOFAR/ASTRON

The search for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations is one of the possible proofs of the existence of life in space. Although the detection of specific radiation of artificial origin is accompanied by a great risk, it will potentially have a high reward. 

How to find a civilization?

If an alien civilization tries to signal its presence through radio frequencies, it will probably direct its signals so that they can be easily distinguished among natural phenomena. Such signals are known as technosignatures. Their discovery is the main goal of SETI, a project studying the possibility of intelligent life in other star systems. 

It is believed that alien civilizations can use technologies similar to those already known on Earth.Therefore, radio frequencies have become a logical area of SETI research due to the widespread use of telecommunications and radars.

The role of radio astronomy in SETI cannot be overestimated, from the very beginning of the project in the 1960s. Many previous studies were conducted using large telescopes operating at frequencies above 1 GHz, but monitoring of radio frequencies below this mark was limited.

Researchers often look for narrowband radio signals ranging from a few hertz to several gigahertz that can be emitted by other civilizations. However, there is no strong scientific reason to prefer a certain part of the radio frequency spectrum, which underlines the importance of research in a wide frequency range from low (30 MHz) to high (100 GHz).


Professor Evan F. Keane and his colleagues from Trinity College Dublin and the University of Galway focused on searching in the 110–190 MHz band using the Irish and Swedish LOFAR stations in the new study. They scanned 1.6 million star systems designated as potentially interesting objects thanks to the Gaia and TESS space missions. So far, such searches have not produced any results.

Part of the LOFAR telescope

“One of the exciting aspects of this research is that we are making our telescopes reach the limit of their capabilities by pointing them at large parts of the sky, which allows us to detect a wide variety of phenomena in space. We hope that this work will help us find our cosmic neighbors faster, and we will be able to prove that we are not alone in the Universe,” said Owen A. Johnson, a graduate student at Trinity College in Dublin.

It is assumed that in the future, LOFAR stations across Europe will be upgraded to expand research on the SETI project in the 15–240 MHz bands using machine learning methods to process a huge amount of data. Such studies have the potential to reveal to us the amazing aspects of extraterrestrial life, providing the opportunity to communicate with other civilizations in the Universe, including with the help of artificial intelligence.

Earlier we reported on how SETI invented a revolutionary method of searching for signals from alien civilizations.

According to Astronomical Journal

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