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Is there anybody out there?

On Oct. 12, 500 years after Columbus landed on the shores of the New World, astronomers embarked on a new era of discovery: the most extensive search ever attempted for intelligent life beyond the solar system solar system, the sun and the surrounding planets, natural satellites, dwarf planets, asteroids, meteoroids, and comets that are bound by its gravity. The sun is by far the most massive part of the solar system, containing almost 99.9% of the system's total mass. . Using existing radio receivers coupled to state-of-the-art pattern-recognition systems and signal-processing equipment, scientists hope to tune in to the Big Broadcast--messages from whatever life forms may reside near any of about 1,000 Milky Way Milky Way, the galaxy of which the sun and solar system are a part, seen as a broad band of light arching across the night sky from horizon to horizon; if not blocked by the horizon, it would be seen as a circle around the entire sky.  stars that lie within 80 lightyears of Earth.

Off and on during more than three decades, scientists have analyzed radio signals from space in the hope of uncovering evidence of extraterrestrial life “Green people” redirects here. For green people in fantasy fiction, see Goblinoid.

Extraterrestrial life is life originating outside of the Earth. It is the subject of astrobiology, and its existence remains theoretical.
. But the new radio survey, though it can only detect signals from nearby stars, has a million times the sensitivity of previous studies, says David Brocker, project manager for SETI SETI (sĕt`ē) [Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence], name given to a series of independent programs to detect radio signals from civilizations beyond the solar system.  (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. Brocker says that the new search gathered as much data in the first five minutes of operation as previous searches had in the past 32 years. Thanks to high-speed supercomputers, he adds, the data are analyzed in "real time"--while they're being collected. This allows researchers to immediately identify and conduct followup observations of intriguing radio signals.

The 10-year international survey features two key studies.

At the Arecibo Observatory Arecibo Observatory, radio-astronomy facility located at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, that includes the world's largest single-dish radio telescope. It was completed in 1963 and is operated by Cornell Univ. under contract with the U.S. National Science Foundation.  in Puerto Rico, scientists have begun using a 1,000-foot-wide, dish-shaped antenna -- the world's largest radiotelescope -- to record microwave signals from individual stars. The signals bounce off the antenna to a system of amplifiers and frequency converters suspended above it. From there, they travel down to a huge trailer that houses processing equipment, including a spectrometer that can analyze the polarization, intensity, and duration of radio waves Radio waves
Electromagnetic energy of the frequency range corresponding to that used in radio communications, usually 10,000 cycles per second to 300 billion cycles per second.
 in the frequency range of 1 to 3 gigahertz.

This configuration of amplifiers and analyzers, which will initially search for telltale radio signals from 40 stars within 80 light-years of Earth, will remain at Arecibo only until Nov. 20, when it will have to make way for a planned upgrading of the radiotelescope. Moving to the Parkes Radio Observatory in Australia, the system will study radio emissions from stars that can only be detected from the southern hemisphere. Researchers expect that mobile signal-analyzing systems will eventually be coupled with four observatories, including a return visit to Arecibo in 1995.

Simultaneously with this "targeted" search of individual stars, Brocker and his colleagues have begun using NASA's 112-foot Goldstone gold¬∑stone ¬†
n.
An aventurine with gold-colored inclusions.

Noun 1. goldstone - aventurine spangled densely with fine gold-colored particles
 radio antenna in the Mojave Desert to scan, at lower sensitivity, small patches of sky. The scanning survey can detect only continuous beams of radio waves, in contrast to the targeted searches, which can also detect radio pulses. However, scanning does offer the advantage of receiving emissions from many stars at once and, over time, surveying the entire sky.

Researchers looking for Looking for

In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with.
 extraterrestrial activity focus on microwaves, notes Brocker, because stars usually emit little radiation at these wavelengths. With less of our galaxy's background noise to contend with in this "quiet zone" of the electromagnetic spectrum electromagnetic spectrum

Total range of frequencies or wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. The spectrum ranges from waves of long wavelength (low frequency) to those of short wavelength (high frequency); it comprises, in order of increasing frequency (or decreasing
, scientists can more easily pick out alien messages. Such signals may include extremely narrow frequency bands of radiation that atoms don't emit naturally, as well as high-intensity pulses.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Science Service, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:research for evidence of intelligent life beyond the solar system
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 7, 1992
Words:523
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