SETI starts the most extensive search for aliens in history

Scientists have expanded the search for alien technological signatures thanks to a new experiment involving the SETI Institute, Breakthrough Listen and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).

Very Large Array. Photo: Unsplash

The project is called COSMIC (Commercial Open-Source Multimode Interferometer Cluster) and uses radio telescopes at the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico. COSMIC provides a significant breakthrough in coverage compared to previous SETI studies, which allows listening to hundreds of thousands and millions of star systems at frequencies from 0.75 to 50 GHz. This gives scientists the opportunity to conduct a detailed SETI search of 80% of the entire sky, which is twice as deep as previous SETI searches.

The COSMIC project is currently focusing on creating a large overview of technological signals from more than 500 thousand sources. COSMIC scans space radio sources at a rate of about 2,000 per hour using data from the VLA Sky Survey (VLASS), which began its third observation cycle in January 2023. COSMIC receives a copy of the raw data collected by the 27-dish radio array before the VLA performs automated standard processing.

The feature of COSMIC is its high time sensitivity, the ability to detect radio signals lasting nanoseconds. This makes it an effective tool for detecting short signals in interstellar transmissions. The COSMIC system is also designed with future modernization opportunities, including the use of machine learning for even more thorough data analysis. 

Machine learning experiments have already been conducted on SETI data collected by other radio telescopes and can be used in COSMIC after a complete understanding of the system. COSMIC also offers other astronomical projects to use its computing power via Ethernet.

The project conducted a test listening of signals from the Voyager 1 spacecraft at a distance of about 159 AU from Earth. Now, after analyzing half a million radio sources, the largest search for aliens in history begins, which is described in detail in an article with lead author Chenoa Tremblay in The Astronomical Journal.

Earlier, we reported on how the SETI project received USD 200 million to search for aliens.

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