Using the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa, scientists from the Breakthrough Listen project are about to commence with the most sophisticated search for alien technology. Efforts to find technosignatures, technology developed by extraterrestrial intelligence, have increased by a factor of 1,000.
A conference organized by the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) has great news for alien hunters. Breakthrough Listen is an initiative to find intelligent life in the universe. The project announced the launch of new observations using the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa’s remote Karoo region with a powerful new instrument. A factor of 1,000 more targets will be searched for in the upcoming hunt for alien technosignatures. The so-called technosignatures are potential indicators of extraterrestrial technology. Breakthrough Listen’s astronomers and engineers have developed and installed the most powerful digital instrumentation for the search for technosignatures in the last three years in collaboration with SARAO engineers.
Search for Alien Technosignatures
They have integrated the equipment with MeerKAT control and monitoring systems. The new hardware complements Listen’s ongoing searches using telescopes around the globe, including the Green Bank Telescope in the USA, the Parkes Telescope in Australia, and others. Unlike Listen’s programs at the GBT and Parkes, which move the dishes to point at targets all around the sky, MeerKAT’s programs generally do not relocate the antennas. According to Breakthrough Listen Principal Investigator Dr. Andrew Siemion, MeerKAT has 64 dishes that can view an area 50 times larger than the GBT. There are many stars with interesting technosignature targets within such a large field of view. According to the researchers, the high-performance supercomputer enables scientists to get highly sensitive scans of targets by combining signals from 64 dishes at once.
Breakthrough Listen’s operation
In this way, other astronomers using the array can conduct their research without being adversely affected. The most exciting aspect of Breakthrough Listen’s operation in this “commensal” mode is that it has access to one of the world’s most capable and sensitive radio telescopes almost twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Listen is also able to reject interfering signals from human technology, such as Earth-orbiting satellites, because it can scan 64 targets at once within its main field of view. A sophisticated targeting and scheduling software had to be developed by the Listen team to make sure the survey goals could be met on time. In addition, they have developed an automated pipeline for processing data in near-real-time to look for interesting signals.
As part of this cutting-edge project, Breakthrough Listen is also collaborating with SARAO to create research opportunities for African astronomers and data scientists. Breakthrough Initiatives are leaders in the field of searching for life in the Universe, which has become a major focus area for international research.