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Denying Ignorance About SETI: It's Not Just About Radio Anymore

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posted on Apr, 14 2015 @ 03:07 AM

It's estimated that there are 50-200 BILLION planets like Earth just within our Milky Way galaxy.

The motto of ATS is "Deny Ignorance". In that spirit I thought It might be a good idea to post an ignorance-killing post surrounding a subject which often is brought up but often misunderstood: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence aka SETI.

Most people are familiar with SETI from various TV shows and movies. Usually what is portrayed is that of a specific branch of SETI: Radio SETI

This is for good reason, Radio SETI is the oldest and until fairly recently, most widespread form of SETI. The first SETI experiments were conducted back in the 1960s, most notably Project Ozma a 1960 SETI experiment by astronomer Frank Drake who examined the nearby Sunlike stars Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani for artificial radio signals.

These experiments were not very sensitive (they would not have even detected our most powerful military radars beyond a few light years) nor did they cover much in terms of frequency space (they were kind of like listening to one channel on a radio at a time), nor did they cover the entire sky.

Nevertheless they were important experiments because they helped define challenges (such as eliminating false positives in the form of terrestrial and orbital radio frequency interference). And early experience gave way to more sophisticated ones which lead to the development of more sensitive equipment, receivers which first covered thousands, then millions then billions of channels simultaneously, and both targeted searches (such as the first experiment Frank Drake conducted) as well as all-sky searches (such as the one at the now defunct "Big Ear" radio telescope which detected the "Wow!" signal and the current SETI experiment at the Arecibo radio telescope which feeds SETI@Home).

Radio SETI turns 55 as of this year and like astronomer and "grandfather of SETI", Frank Drake (pictured above), is a well seasoned, senior citizen.

Mainstream media often reports that SETI has been searching the skies for over 50 years without detecting anything in the way of radio signals from extraterrestrial civilizations. Unfortunately such stories usually fail to mention the enormity of the task and just how little of the sky and frequency space has been covered:

As you can see from the above chart of various SETI experiments, Radio SETI over the last 55 years has not covered much in the way of frequency space nor has it examined the entire sky at high sensitivity.

So Radio SETI has a long way to go before anyone could say it's a waste of time in terms of covering every frequency and every part of sky at high sensitivity.

It should also be noted that most of the experiments on the chart above were short in duration, lasting weeks, months or a few years. It is not as though Radio SETI has been looking for signals around the clock 24/7 year after year. There were huge month and year-long gaps between observing runs.

Additionally we've only just begun doing SETI at the lower frequencies similar to what we use for radio and TV. Until now most SETI experiments operated in the microwave (above 1 Ghz) range. While most of our own radio leakage operates at lower frequencies. Enter LOFAR the massive, muilti-country, long frequency radio telescope array in Europe:

The Low Frequency Array feeds data to UC Berkeley's SETI@Home

Jocelyn Bell - Discoverer of the first 4 known pulsars (two of which were briefly labelled LGM-1 &LGM-2 for "Little Green Men") with one of the elements of the LOFAR array which conducts SETI experiments at frequencies similar to what we use for radio and TV. LOFAR is a precursor to the Square Kilometer Array

"But it's still radio duh....."

A more common criticism of Radio SETI has to do with the use of the word "radio". Most people hear radio and think of the thing in their car or the thing their parents used to listen to before the ubiquity of MP3 players, Pandora, and other streaming services.

It seems almost antiquated and counterintuitive in this day and age we'd be looking for advanced alien civilizations with something as old-fashioned as radio. After all, our own use of radio is vastly different today than it was in 1960s.

Unfortunately most people do not know that plenty of our technology today STILL uses radio, not just for communication either. Many of the same people also assume Radio SETI is looking for some form of communication when in reality all Radio SETI is looking to detect initially is a narrowband signal less than 1Hz wide. Such signals are not produced by nature but plenty of our technology produces them.

In fact Earth's most powerful radio signals are not for communication at all. They're not beaming entertainment and information in audio or video form (in the case of Broadcast TV).

Nope, our most powerful radio transmitter is the Arecibo Planetary Radar in Puerto Rico which is used to take radar images of near earth asteroids, especially ones which make close approaches.

Radar delay-Doppler images of asteroid 2014 HQ124 taken with the Arecibo planetary radar. The Arecibo Planetary Radar transmits up to 1 MegaWatt (1 MW) of power with an antenna gain of about 73.3 dB at 12.6 cm wavelength, resulting in an equivalent isotropically radiated power (EIRP) of roughly 20 TeraWatts (20,000,000,000,000 watts or 20,000,000 MW). Most commercial TV and radio stations have EIRPs far less (100,000-1,000,000 watts or 0.1-1.0 MW)

An extraterrestrial version of Arecibo with the same sensitivity as modern SETI receivers could detect Arecibo's planetary radar at a distance of 5,000 light years (ly).

An extraterrestrial version of our Square Kilometer Array (SKA), which is due to see first light in 2024 would be able to detect Arecibo's planetary radar at a distance of 40,000 ly - almost half the diameter of our Milky Way galaxy. The SKA in it's first building phase would also be able to detect an alien equivalent of our airport radars at a distance of 60 ly.

Radar is just one use of radio an advanced civilization might still use because of its ease and usefulness in detecting and imaging objects in the cold darkness of space. Other uses might include beaming power to space colonies using microwaves from off world solar power collectors or even using such collectors to propel a starship (See: Starwisp).

As you can see, far from being a "Silly Effort To Investigate" as one UFO proponent often proclaims it, Radio SETI could still be valid in terms of detecting advanced civilizations who long ago stopped using it for communication.

"Enough about radio, what about other wavelengths?"

I thought you'd never ask....
edit on 14-4-2015 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 14 2015 @ 03:07 AM
OTHER WAVELENGTHS: SETI is not just for radio anymore...

All astronomy, SETI astronomy included, measures various forms or wavelengths of light, whether optical light (traditional optical astronomy), infrared light, ultraviolet light, x-ray light, gamma ray light etc.

Radio is another, longer wavelength of light in the electromagnetic spectrum. In terms of frequency, Microwaves (which Radio SETI has traditionally focused on) exist just below millimeter or terahertz wavelengths (which naked body scanners at airports use) which themselves exist just below infrared light (which your body and everything else warmer than absolute zero gives off).

See below:

The same chart from the first post but updated to include Allen Telescope Array, a proposed system called the Omnidirectional Search System, Infrared and Optical SETI)

So what other forms of SETI have been developed to examine these other wavelengths of light?

SETI has not sat by, "stuck on stupid" for 55 years. Innovative strategies to look for other signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. Some of these such as looking for laser pulses are still looking for communication. Other forms such as work being done in the infrared are looking for the potential byproducts an advanced civilization might produce.

BERKELEY SETI: Multi-spectral Masters

Here is a poster from UC Berkeley (the people behind SETI@Home) which details the wavelengths it is looking into and what they hope to detect with just it's SETI experiments:

Click HERE to see it enlarged.

Beyond just the areas detailed in the poster above there are other areas of SETI being investigated elsewhere such as Infrared SETI looking through data collected by infrared space telescopes like WISE, ISO and IRAS for evidence of large scale astro-engineering (Dyson Spheres, Dyson, Swarms, Ringworlds/Halos, etc). See video below:


There is also a privately funded project to build a massive 74 meter near-infrared ground based telescope which could detect the heat signature of any sort of accumulation of populations and electronics (for lack of a better word I'll call them "cities") on an alien world if it orbited any number of stars within 60 light years of Earth.

NASA's near-infrared animation of Earth as assembled from NASA/NOAA Satellite footage:

The Neighborhood: This is a map of every star within 50 light years visible with the naked eye from Earth. There are 133 stars marked on this map. Most of these stars are very similar to the Sun and it is probable that there are many Earth-like planets around these stars. There are roughly 1,400 star systems within this volume of space containing 2,000 stars, so this map only shows the brightest 10% of all the star systems, but most of the fainter stars are red dwarfs. It is estimated that this area could contain up to 400 Earthlike planets. - If we extend this map out to 60 light years (the search space for the proposed Colossus telescope) that is area containing over 3,100 stars and an estimated 690 potentially Earthlike planets

And in the words of the man who heads up the project speaking at the end of the video below, such a telescope would be able to see the heat signature of "20-30 Earthlike civilizations if we're not so special for less than a couple Boeing 777s.":


There's also been some discussion of using the emerging field of millimeter and sub millimeter astronomy and instruments such as ALMA in Chile to look for the predicted signatures of starships traveling close to the speed of light.

This is nothing new, a similar (but cruder) idea was investigated using radio astronomy, not to detect communications from a starship but to detect the possible use of nuclear fusion technology to power or propel it.

Project Daedalus was a design study for an interstellar probe, the alien equivalent whose fusion pulse engines may have been detectable was sought with the experiment below

In 1985, astronomers used the 26 meter radio telescope at Hat Creek Radio Observatory (Near present day location of the SETI Institute's Allen Telescope Array, to search for the tritium hyperfine line at 1516 MHz from 108 assorted astronomical objects. They focused on 53 nearby stars including all visible stars within a 20 light-year radius. The tritium frequency was deemed highly attractive for SETI work because the isotope is cosmically rare, the tritium hyperfine line is centered in the SETI waterhole region of the terrestrial microwave window, and in addition to beacon signals, tritium hyperfine emission may occur as a byproduct of extensive nuclear fusion energy production by extraterrestrial civilizations.

10 Years later in 1995 another SETI researcher published a paper on the devising search strategies for the spectral characteristics of things such as Anti-matter driven spacecraft. like the illustration of a hypothetical one pictured above.

Additionally, there have been searches through gravitational microlensing astronomy data for things such as starships creating space/time warps (warp drive) or for wormholes.

And there have been proposals to look for various types of starship designs using Radio, Visible Light, X-Rays and Gamma Ray astronomy. As detailed in a section of this American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics paper which is titled: Detecting Starships

edit on 14-4-2015 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 14 2015 @ 03:08 AM
EXOARCHEOLOGY: The Search for Ruins of ET's past.

And how about civilizations which might build extremely large, non-spherical structures (think "Borg Cube") which orbit their star? Well there are people associated with SETI who are looking through light curves gathered by NASA's Kepler spacecraft for evidence of non-spherical geometric objects transiting other stars. Such a search would not be confined to living civilizations, we could just as easily be seeing their ruins as such structures could continue to orbit their star for millions or even billions of years after a civilization died out.

What about closer to home? There is a project being put together by Dr. Paul Davies at Arizona State University to crowdsource a search of extraterrestrial artifacts on the moon using data archives from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Far from crazy, this proposed project has been written up most recently, last year on Forbes magazine's website

Beyond this work to directly look for ET people involved in SETI also explore other related fields such as exoplanet research, astrobiology and studies of the Earth's distant past, general astrophysics, solar system planetology, molecular and evolutionary biology, information science, interspecies communication research with dolphins, primates and more.

SETI science attempts to pick away and hone in on the various factors of the Drake Equation, which itself was devised to break the question of if we are alone and if not, how populated our universe is) into several smaller questions each of which can be examined with various experiments and development of technologies for better observations.

See ATS: The Drake Equation - Illustrated and Clarified (INFOGRAPHIC)

As you can see, the science of tracking down ET known as SETI has moved on from simple searches for their version of "I Love Lucy".

Your average mainstream media science reporter has not.

You are were probably already smarter than them, now you are wiser than him or her, the average UFO researcher/investigator/lecturer and probably most of your friends who might discuss the question of "Are We Alone".

Now that you are armed with better, more current information about modern SETI research you can go boldly forth and…

Deny Ignorance

edit on 14-4-2015 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 14 2015 @ 05:42 AM
a reply to: JadeStar
Well, if it was for me, I'd look for non-spherical structures around Jupiter.

posted on Apr, 14 2015 @ 08:25 AM
That was amazing, Jade Star.
I mean fantastic work. I haven't seen SETI themselves
put out better or more detailed information as to what they do.

Im convinced some UFO's are real ET craft
So heck yeah to SETI but it's expensive compared to
looking up in the sky or having a reputable news paper do a fair report.
So as a UFO person to a SETI person lets meet in the middle.

I'll vote SETI if SETI can agree it's a good idea to put
quality cameras up around Nuclear facilities
as UFO's seem to like them a bunch.

posted on Apr, 14 2015 @ 08:52 AM
a reply to: JadeStar

The OP finished with this statement:

"As you can see, far from being a "Silly Effort To Investigate" as one UFO proponent often proclaims it, Radio SETI could still be valid in terms of detecting advanced civilizations who long ago stopped using it for communication."

I would agree in a fashion. "Far from being a 'Silly Effort to Investigate,' it has been a masterful PR ploy to get the public engaged in the thinking around the fringes of the concept of ETIs being legitimate, out there and just remotely possible of being visitors.

On the other hand, if one wants to get serious about the whole business, you would need to back up and ask, "Well, if big Science, scientists, and government are keen on doing these sort of investigations, then why in Hell do they ignore, deny, belittle, and dis/misinform us about the reality of UFOs?

The prime question becomes this: When has government with its almost total control of science and research EVER conducted a full, in depth and public determination of the phenomena? Answer: It probably has. A preliminary step was done in an internal 1948 Air Force report entitled "The Estimate of the Situation."* Step by step, they are well on their way with programs such as SETI, and a flurry of rather recent programs and studies to get the public up to the dawn of reality that is not far out there these days. What have they determined in secret?

*Note: In his poorly organized but informative The Report On Unidentified Flying Objects (1956) Capt Edward J. Ruppelt gave an insider's account of how poorly the Air Force ran its "investigations of UFO reports. He even hints of more science-based investigations beyond the collection of mere sighing reports which are always of dubious value and intentionally used against the reality of the phenomena. --You don't do Science that way.

The while UFO story is a carefully constructed and controlled myth. Everybody knows what the term means in specific and in general but never is there available solid proof. Perfect. That myth has two co-conspirators, the UFO folk and our authorities. The myth has been fabricated as a social engineering tool to ease bit by bit public awareness over into an area of acceptability of a concept of the universe that was once insane.

posted on Apr, 14 2015 @ 08:57 AM
a reply to: JadeStar

An awesome thread fellow traveler, your efforts are appreciated.

I thought I was kind of up to speed on our current status in the search for intelligent life. It appears I was mistaken, thank you for the I formative post.

posted on Apr, 14 2015 @ 04:33 PM
a reply to: JadeStar

Great post. Thanks for your time and effort - it'll take me awhile to read through it all

posted on Apr, 14 2015 @ 04:53 PM
Thanks for the well constructed thread.

The area of research that I find of most interest is the warp drive /searching for spaceships as these are possibly being detected and interacting within humanities sphere of Earth dimensions (plenty of credible reports). My own experiences influence the fact that I believe there is interaction, I also consider the dimensional aspects of such interactions.

The truth is that the research science is currently limited to doesn't include dimensional radar, so is essentially looking for that which is possibly outwith human terms of comprehension in human science terms.

I do believe there could also be known though hidden interactions, ie. the highest echelons of control implementing control on information to the public.

Given that there is exponential knowledge gain and so much has been learned scientifically within 100 years, there is the likeliness that even greater scientific advancements will be made within the near future that facilitates comprehension of dimensions and interactions.

As for the ignorant media and population, it is advisable that they realise the reality of the situation and get out of their comfort zone of denial. Wearing a blindfold and ear defenders might deny them true reality but reality is still happening around them.

posted on Apr, 14 2015 @ 08:55 PM
The SETI Project was briefly mentioned in a CNN online article today: CNN online article - SETI Project

An interesting take on the odds of making contact with "communicative beings".

posted on Apr, 14 2015 @ 09:26 PM
We have also been sending out radio signals into space for 76 years ... which means the star systems 76 light years away could pick up our signals if they had the technology to do so ...

posted on Jul, 23 2015 @ 04:29 PM
Marking for future reading

posted on Jul, 23 2015 @ 04:51 PM
I used to have 3 of my home computers running SETI at home. It was interesting and I only stopped because I don't have a regular or reliable interner connection after I moved out to into the country. That was around 15 years ago.I had a hilarious thing happen one night, related to SETI.

My sister was visiting from out of town. She was a smoker, so I went out on the front porch to sit with her while she smoked. My kooky cat, that gets a bit testy if anything in his world changes, decided to slam the front door shut. We are now on the porch. The door is locked.Thank goodness the front window was unlocked, which told me my sister was probably smoking in the house and blowing the smoke out the window when I wasn't home, but at this time I was grateful it was open. Just as I got the screen off and was lifting the window, a police car comes along. Of course I had to explain why I was breaking into my own house.

They were a little skeptical when I told them my cat was upset that my sister is visiting, and it locked us out of the house. So they requested proof that I lived there. I explained I had to enter the house to get my ID. They gave me permission to enter through the window. I explained I would go in, open the door, allow them to enter, and I would present my ID. Well after I came in the window, all the fun was over, and there were two odd folks at the door, my cat Lazarus, opened the door. They were a little surprised to see me just stepping into the room from the outside and the door opening with the cat standing there looking at them. One of the cops said he wasn't too surprised that my cat had closed the door, but it didn't know he could open it. I said it is just a tricked he has learned how to do.

It got a little more interesting when one of officers recognized the SETI at home display on my computer. He said he had heard something about SETI, and he asked me what it was about. I told him SETI stands for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. With that, the other officer said, "That's it." "Lady, I believe you live here." " I don't need to see your ID." He walked, more like ran, out of the house.

His partner was laughing until my cat walked over and slammed the door. At this point he too was quite ready to leave as well.

It still makes my sister and I laugh when we remember that night.

I think SETI at home is not as mysterious today as it was back then, but it is still greatly misunderstood by many.

I am just not so sure anymore about the wisdom of sending out beacons to our planet, at this stage of our development. We are only begging to be enslaved if they are anything like us, and have greater technology. I may be wrong now, but I don't think so.

edit on 23-7-2015 by NightSkyeB4Dawn because: Cleaning up a bit. Damn those power outages!

posted on Jul, 23 2015 @ 05:01 PM
a reply to: JadeStar

Great thread! S&F

Does this mean SETI can detect life that is not constrained to the physical matter i.e. type III civ?

sorry if i missed it im just not so good with technical terminology!

posted on Jul, 23 2015 @ 05:12 PM
a reply to: JadeStar

Awesome thread.
I used to participate in the Seti@home project many years ago.
I might have to again.

At some point, someone will find something.
It has to happen.

The thought of something orbiting a dead planet being detected first just makes the imagination go wild.
There are so many possibilities in the universe...
Mind blowing stuff when you think about it.


Thank you for the Seti update!

posted on Jul, 23 2015 @ 06:35 PM

originally posted by: Darkblade71
a reply to: JadeStar

Awesome thread.
I used to participate in the Seti@home project many years ago.
I might have to again.

At some point, someone will find something.
It has to happen.

The thought of something orbiting a dead planet being detected first just makes the imagination go wild.
There are so many possibilities in the universe...
Mind blowing stuff when you think about it.


Thank you for the Seti update!

It is so hard to believe it has been that long ago for me. They really have come a long way. Especially since they didn't get the kind of support they needed in the beginning.

Makes me wonder.

What turned them around?

posted on Jul, 23 2015 @ 07:31 PM
Hi guys! I really appreciate the support and the new discussion and question around this thread! I know some of you came here from the news thread on the exciting new announcement of the discovery of the most Earthlike planet to date, Kepler-452b which was detailed in a NASA briefing this morning as part of another large release of analysis of data from the spacecraft.

As you might imagine I am trying to keep tabs on that and go through a new list of candidates at the same time several threads needing my attention here on ATS have exploded. This is one of them and I couldn't be happier

Anyways please know that I will be replying and answering questions in this thread later tonight pacific time and tomorrow morning as well.

And to draw it all together SETI has looked at and will continue to target Kepler-452b. It is a target of high interest due to its similarity to Earth and 6 billion year age (2 billion years older than our planet).
edit on 23-7-2015 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 23 2015 @ 10:18 PM
a reply to: JadeStar

Thanks again for taking time to keep us apprised of all the new discoveries

posted on Jul, 23 2015 @ 10:21 PM
All this SETI stuff requires one thing that no one talks about.

It requires the other civilization to be at the same stage of development as we are.
They could be where we were in the 1700's.
Or they could be in the 22nd century where radio is not used at all.

With the vast majority of radio spectrum not being covered.
With the vast majority of sky not being covered.
With the slim chance of the other guys being at the same stage of development.
SETI is going no where.

posted on Jul, 23 2015 @ 11:28 PM
I feel like life is finally starting to take a new direction. Wouldn't it be amazing if we did detect something coming from this new planet?

Okay, yeah, so I'm only really commenting to add this to my subscribed threads. Sue me.

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