Is man alone in the Universe? This is a question that many want answered, but just how difficult is it to find ET? There is, it seems, an infinite amount of stars visible from Earth and along with most of those stars come orbiting planets and moons. So the possibility of life is great, but there is a difference between microbial, complex and intelligent life. We as Humans are fortunate enough to have lasted this long to become somewhat intelligent, so why have we not found a species like us out there?
Well the problem lies in the distances in space. People, Spaceships and radio signals all take time to traverse the Universe and when we measure these distances in light it becomes clear how much slower every other element is. Unfortunately Humans do not have the capabilities to travel between the stars but we are exploiting all other means in getting as close as we can. NASA has provided us with telescopes to peer among the cosmos for decades. This institution has become our eyes and SETI are our ears.
Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), is a collection of institutions and operations set out to look for life that has evolved to a similar state to our own. This institute is comprised by some of the most advance technologies on offer. One of which is the Allen Telescope Array at the University of California, Berkeley. Made of an eventual 350 radio telescopes this facility is be able to listen to extensive regions of the universe in the hope to receive a response.
Many of SETI’s projects are similar to this Array. Signals covering the entire wave spectrum are listened out for in the hope that somewhere out there someone or something has got the radio on.
SETI have been listening for over 50 years now and still nothing has been heard. Or has it?
Thirty-five years ago this week a signal was detected by a volunteer astronomer at OSU SETI and quickly gained fame as the strongest signal ever detected. Jerry Ehman was the man who found the strong signal amongst and otherwise standard data read, he circled the figures and wrote the word WOW next to it. Later dubbed the ‘WOW! Signal’ many had hoped that SETI had stumbled across the very first indication of intellectual life. That was on August 15th 1977, many additional attempts to locate that signal have failed but that patch of sky still remains a hotspot for SETI.
The fact is predicting where to look is the problem. We may have already looked in a place where once a great species did live or will live in the future. The truth is a civilization can last for millennia and be wiped out in a second just like our own might. Whose to say there isn’t a civilization just like ours in the Universe? Or that there has been before or will be in the future? With Space coexisting with time across such vast distances it will be near on impossible to find ET with the TV on.
Jill Tarter, former director of SETI sums it up perfectly when she explains her work and the task SETI are up against
…the amount of searching that we’ve done in 50 years is equivalent to scooping one 8-ounce glass out of the Earth’s ocean, looking and seeing if you caught a fish. No, no fish in that glass? Well, I don’t think you’re going to conclude that there are no fish in the ocean. You just haven’t searched very well yet….
- We Shouldn’t Give Up on SETI (spectrum.ieee.org)
- The Wow! Signal (merovee.wordpress.com)
- Twitter ‘Alien’ Shout-Out: #ChasingUFOs Tweet Planned As Reply … – Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com)
- Ms. Universe Leila Lopes’ WOW! Alien Signal Response | Video (space.com)