An artist's rendering of a signal from aliens. Depositphotos.

Beyond the Stars: Innovative Software Scours the Galaxy for Extraterrestrial Signs

As we strive to decipher the cosmos, a groundbreaking software developed by Cornell University stands at the forefront. This tool is honing our capability to pick up signals from the stars, potentially reshaping our pursuit for extraterrestrial intelligence within our galaxy.


Cornell University is making strides in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) within our galaxy, thanks to the development of revolutionary software aimed at detecting periodic signals emanating from the Milky Way’s nucleus.

BLIPSS: Leading the Search for Extraterrestrial Signs

Akshay Suresh, a Cornell doctoral candidate in astronomy, is leading this initiative through the Breakthrough Listen Investigation for Periodic Spectral Signals (BLIPSS). The project is centered on finding repetitive patterns emitted from our galaxy’s core, indicative of potential extraterrestrial existence.

Fast Folding Algorithm: A Key to Unlocking Galactic Mysteries

The team developed unique software rooted in the Fast Folding Algorithm (FFA), enhancing sensitivity towards periodic sequences of narrow pulses. Their groundbreaking research, titled “A 4–8 GHz Galactic Center Search for Periodic Technosignatures,” has been recently published in The Astronomical Journal.

A New Lens on Pulsars and Directed Periodic Transmissions

Naturally occurring astrophysical objects, such as pulsars, generate periodic signals. However, humans also employ directed periodic transmissions in various applications like radar. These distinctive signals, standing out amidst a background of non-periodic ones, could be a low-energy method for interstellar communication.


BLIPSS: Unleashing the Power of Software in SETI Research

“BLIPSS symbolizes the use of cutting-edge software to magnify SETI’s scope,” expressed Suresh. Their innovative, open-source software utilizes an FFA to analyze over 1.5 million time series for periodic signals in just half an hour.

Collaborating for Galactic Advancement

A joint venture among Cornell, the SETI Institute, and Breakthrough Listen, BLIPSS enhances the likelihood of detecting signs of extraterrestrial technology. It focuses on the Milky Way’s center, densely populated with stars and possibly habitable exoplanets—an ideal location for an extraterrestrial beacon.

A Pioneering Test Run and Promising Results

The research team initially tested their algorithm on known pulsars, successfully detecting the expected periodic emission. They proceeded with a larger dataset from the Galactic Center, using the Breakthrough Listen instrument on the 100-meter Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia. They sought repeating signals within a narrower frequency range, contrasting with the broad frequency emission of pulsars.


Narrow Bandwidths and Periodic Patterns: The Hallmark of Intelligent Civilizations?

Co-author Steve Croft, a Breakthrough Listen project scientist, suggested that the combination of relatively narrow bandwidths with periodic patterns could signify the deliberate technological activities of intelligent civilizations. Similarly, co-author Vishal Gajjar, a SETI Institute astronomer, highlighted the energy efficiency of a pulse train as a means of interstellar communication, marking this as the first-ever comprehensive attempt to search for such signals.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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