Published: Sat, May 12, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Breakthrough Listen's ET-Hunting Project Starts New Search with Parkes Telescope

Breakthrough Listen's ET-Hunting Project Starts New Search with Parkes Telescope

Australia's Parkes Radio Telescope became the third telescope used by Breakthrough Listen project to scan the heavens in 2016, joining the ranks of Automated Planet Finder at Lick Observatory in Northern California, and Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.

With the new digital instrumentation, the device can now handle 130 gigabits per second. But now, the telescope has been equipped with a multibeam receiver, an instrument, which features 13 beams and is capable of recording data from a bigger portion of the sky.

The Parkes telescope (which is operated by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, or CSIRO) has a new "multibeam" receiverwhich uses 13 beams to observe large pieces of sky, Breakthrough Listen representatives said in a statement.

Breakthrough Listen, a $100 million project created to seek out potential signals from intelligent extraterrestrial life, took a giant leap forward Monday (May 7) with a new campaign to search for life in the cosmos faster than ever before. The data received at Parkes will then be compressed and archived at the Pawsey supercomputing center in Perth, and subsequently searched for signals that have indications of artificial origin.

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'With these new capabilities, we are scanning our galaxy in unprecedented detail, ' said Danny Price, Parkes Project Scientist with the Breakthrough Listen project at UC Berkeley. Though the dense region around Milky Way's center hosts a supermassive black hole and makes up one of the worst places for life to thrive, the neighborhood targeted by the team hosts tens of millions of stars, with many lying between Earth and far from the point of chaos at the center. The vast majority of such signals come from human-generated radio frequency interference (RFI) - satellites, airplanes, cellphones, and the like - and discriminating between RFI and signals of interest is the major challenge facing any SETI search. These telescopes will allow researchers to survey wider swaths of area in the galaxy, increasing our chances of finding signals potentially originating from intelligent life.

According to a statement released by the program, the new survey will investigate all of the Milky Way's galactic plane that is visible by the Parkes Radio Telescope over the next 60 days. "So in an infinite universe, there must be other occurrences of life".

Parkes will carry out 1,500 hours of observations in 2018, resulting in an expected 100 petabytes of data that will be searched for signs of extraterrestrial technology.

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