ET fails to phone home, for now

The hunt for intelligent civilisations outside our Solar System has stepped up a notch with a revolutionary new technique.

Mount pleasant

The Mount Pleasant Radio Telescope was just one of the antennas used to hunt for aliens in Australia's Long Baseline Array. Image credit: Danieljr1992

On Earth we are constantly broadcasting our presence on the planet into the universe in the form of radio waves, signals and more. Using this principle, a team of Australian astronomers has begun observing known planetary systems outside our Solar System to try and find signs of alien broadcasts and possibly discover an alien civilisation that is either knowingly or unknowingly revealing their location.

Known as Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), the technique combines the signal of several telescope to make them act as one giant telescope and looks at a miniscule portion of the night sky. In the first instance the team of astronomers at Curtin University’s International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research in Australia trained the Australian Long Baseline Array on the Gliese 581 plaentary system for a total of eight hours. They listenend in on a range of radio frequencies and, although they heard nothing, the team was able to prove that VLBI could be used to find extraterrestrial life in such a way.

A recent study suggested that each star hosts an average of 1.6 planets, so the team’s failure to find a signal is not disheartening. With millions of planets waiting to be discovered in the Milky Way alone, there are high hopes that continued observations will eventually turn up signs of an alien civilisation broadcasting their location into the universe.

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