Dan Werthimer has been trying to eavesdrop on aliens for over 40 years.
A pioneering researcher in the field of astronomy known as SETI, orsearching for extraterrestrial intelligence, Welthimer's job is to scan the universe with a giant terrestrial radio telescope. An unexplained signal that may come from a strange or alien civilization.
If it sounds like you're looking for a needle in a pile of hay, it's for some reason.
However, searching for extraterrestrial intelligence has become more complex in recent years. The growing demand for mobile services and the wireless Internet is creating interference that can congest the radio spectrum, distort data, and add "noise" to scientific results.
"The earth is becoming more and more polluted," said Welthimer, chief engineer at the Berkeley SETI Research Center. "In some radio bands, there are so many TV transmitters, WiFIs, and mobile phone bands that it's already impossible to run SETI."
Problems as wireless technology continues to grow. Will only get worse, Wartimer said, which could jeopardize one of the key ways scientists have to explore an intelligent life in space.
Werthimer was one of the authors of apreprint study recently led by a Chinese researcher, andseveral media outlets have the characteristics of an alien civilization. Identified a radio signal that was falsely reported as being. The signal turned out to be radio interference, Werthimer said.
Focused SETI research began in earnest in the 1980s and became a popular culture in the 1985 novel "Contact" by Carl Sagan, which was later adopted in the movie starring Jodie Foster.
SETI's research is essentially aimed at answering the question, "Are we alone in space?" Decades after scientists first began listening to alien signals, improvements in telescope technology and data processing enhanced search, Wortimer said.
"I used to listen to one channel, but now I'm listening to 10 billion channels," he said. “Technology and science continue to advance.”
But these leap in technology present challenges. More satellites are being launched into lower earth orbits as a result of lower launch costs and cheaper materials to build spacecraftSociety for wireless internet and GPS navigation Increasing dependence also means intensifying competition for radio frequencies.
"It's a precious spectrum and people want it more and more for their daily activities," said SETI's prominent professor of physics and electrical engineering at Harvard University. Researcher Paul Horowitz said. "That means the radio spectrum is confusing these days."
For SETI scientists, having a relatively clear and unobstructed channel for scanning the universe is invaluable. is. False human interference not only increases the work that researchers exclude, but can also appear as falsely intriguing signals.
It's a challenge for astronomy to be too familiar, Andrew, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center and Bernard M. Oliver Chair of the SETI Institute's SETI Research in Mountainview, California. Seamion says.
To avoid red herring, scientists often rely on reproducibility. This may include long-term study of the same target to compare observations. Researchers also use what is known about human-induced interference to reveal results.
"As all these satellites are launched, we have more knowledge about what's in space," said Siemion, Principal Investigator atBreakthroughListen. .. A 10-year, $ 100 million initiative to search for intelligent extraterrestrials, launched in 2015 by Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner.
He added that increasing awareness of the situation in space makes it easier to identify satellite and other forms of human interference.
"Looking at the signal from the satellite and thinking that it is from a distant celestial body helps us to know that we are not fooling ourselves," Simion said. Told.
Advances in machine learning have made it faster and easier for scientists to filter out interference from their data, said Bruce Betts, Chief Scientist of the Planetary Society.
Betts said improvements in these treatments should allow SETI research to continue.
"Even if there are more sources of interference, they will follow a particular frequency pattern and a particular timing pattern," he said. “It's really annoying to add hundreds of satellites that all produce the same interference, but we can develop a system to eliminate it.”
SETI As the field of research evolves, in the future There are other ideas on how to avoid interference. For example, Welthimer, Horowitz and others are investigating how to search for alien civilizations in the optical part of the spectrum.
Others have suggested installing a radio telescope across the moon. There you will be protected from interference from the earth. While technically feasible, Horowitz says such projects can be quite expensive.
"SETI has struggled with little government support for decades, so no one would want to do it during financially constrained times," he said. Added.
According to Betts, interest in SETI research has grown over time, despite technical and funding challenges. He said many of them could be due to the intriguing potential of finding intellectual life elsewhere in the universe.
"More than most other discoveries, it will reconstruct many of our philosophical views of the universe," he said. "Yes, it's a needle in a mountain of hay, but if you find it, you'll find one of the deepest discoveries in history."