Wednesday, November 9, 2016

NSW telescope captures Earth-like planet

Breakthrough Listen, the UC Berkeley-led 10-year, $100 million search for intelligent life beyond Earth, inaugurated its observations with the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia by homing in on our nearest extrasolar planet, Proxima b, the main destination for a sister project called Breakthrough Starshot. Together with the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, USA and Automated Planet Finer in California, USA, the Breakthrough Listen initiative aims to uncover whether civilizations scattered along the vastness of the universe have developed machines similar to those on earth.

The CSIRO said the Parkes telescope was perfectly located to observe parts of the universe that cannot be seen from the northern hemisphere, including the center of our own Milky Way galaxy. Now, Parkes joins once again in expanding human horizons as we search for the answer to one of our oldest questions: Are we alone?

The Parkes Radio Telescope would be pointed at the Southern Hemisphere, where there are many potential targets. "We're very pleased to be collaborating with CSIRO to take Listen to the next level". The two would exchange and share plans, methods and data for a more thorough search.
People have been wondering if there are other life forms out in the universe.

Milner said that the Parkes telescope, which will be the first outside the United States to participate in Breakthrough Listen, was a significant addition. "These major instruments are the ears of planet Earth, and now they are listening for signs of other civilisations". The double star Alpha Centauri AB also appears in the image between the exoplanet and Proxima itself.

The first Breakthrough Listen observations for the Parkes dish came Monday, when scientists turned the telescope toward the Proxima Centauri star system to look for possible signals from alien civilizations.

The planet, roughly 1.3 times the size of Earth, is thought to be rocky and orbits the star at a distance that could permit liquid water on its surface - putting it in the so-called "habitable zone" where life may have evolved.

Breakthrough Listen scientist Dr Andrew Siemion, director of the University of California Seti Research Centre, said: "The chances of any particular planet hosting intelligent life-forms are probably minuscule. To find a civilization just 4.2 light years away would change everything".

He adds the Parkes radio telescope is the first to discover the "fast radio burst". Scientists, programmers, students, and others are invited to access the Breakthrough Listen archive for scientific research purposes, including helping ideal algorithms to sift through petabytes of raw data from the telescopes, screening for interfering signals from earth-bound technology. The APF is an optical telescope which will search for laser signals rather than radio transmissions.