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Scientists are finalising plans to link radio wave detectors in five countries and create a device sensitive enough to pick up signals from worlds the other side of the galaxy.
By connecting banks of detectors in fields across Britain, France, Holland, Sweden and Germany, astronomers aim to create a radio telescope that will have the accuracy of a machine the size of Europe. They believe it could solve some of the universe's most important secrets - including the discovery of radio broadcasts from intelligent extraterrestrials.
'This system works by collecting radio waves over a range of frequencies,' said cosmologist Robert Nichol of Portsmouth University. 'These can then be analysed using arrays of computers which can identify patterns from the data streaming from our detectors.