Created in 1984, SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is one of the longest running search for intelligent extraterrestrial life in the universe.
Using data analysis, machine learning and advanced signal detection technologies, researchers from different institutions contribute to understanding the origin of life and the evolution of intelligence. And that search has increased by more than 21,000%.
A team of scientists from the University of Manchester, UK, has managed to increase its operation to expand the search for extraterrestrial life from 1,327 to 288,315 star systems – increasing the number of stars analyzed by a factor of more than 200.
The main benefited project was the Breakthrough Listen, launched in 2015, which uses radio telescopes, optical telescopes and ultrasensitive detectors to analyze stars and galaxies close to ours in search of signs of intelligent life.
University of Manchester scientists contributed to the new distance calculations after combing data collected by the European Space Agency (ESA) about the location and distance of Earth’s celestial bodies within a radius of 33,000 light years – the limit of range of the Gaia telescope.
“Knowing the locations and distances of these additional sources greatly improves our ability to restrict the prevalence of extraterrestrial intelligence in our own galaxy and beyond. We hope that future SETI research will also make good use of this approach,” says team leader Michael Garrett, who published its results in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society .
“This work shows the value of combining data from different telescopes,” says SETI director Andrew Siemion.
“Expanding our observations to cover almost 220 times more stars would have required a significant investment of our telescope time, not to mention the capabilities of computing to perform the analysis. The new study extracted additional information from the existing data set to take us one step closer to knowing the answer to humanity’s deepest question: Are we alone? ”
The new expanded sample now includes countless giant stars and white dwarfs that previously did not enter the search.
In addition to improving the search limits for nearby stars, the study set limits for more distant stars – with the caveat that any potential life forms inhabiting the outer limits of the galaxy would need even more powerful transmitters to be detected.
SETI’s idea is to identify extraterrestrial civilizations through radio broadcasts – like the ones we’ve been sending out since the beginning of the 20th century.
The increase in the scope of the search, in fact, is bad news for anyone who expects us to encounter such aliens.
Early: the result suggests that less than 0.04% of star systems have the potential to host advanced civilizations with radio technology equivalent or slightly more advanced than humans in the 21st century.
“Now we know that less than one in 1,600 stars in a 330 light-year radius can host transmitters just a few times more powerful than the most powerful radar we have here on Earth. Worlds inhabited with transmitters much more powerful than we can produce today they should be even more rare”, evaluates Bart Wlodarczyk-Sroka, co-author of the study.
The analysis, the researchers say, can only locate intelligent and technically advanced civilizations that use radio waves as a means of communication – they could not, for example, detect “simple” life or civilizations that have not yet developed these techniques.