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Will 2020 Be the Year We Find Intelligent Extraterrestrial Life?

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Article by Leonard David                            November 26, 2019                        (space.com)

• So far, astronomers have found more than 4,000 exoplanets and more are being discovered, suggesting that every star in the Milky Way galaxy hosts more than one planet. Space.com asked top SETI experts whether they will detect life elsewhere in the galaxy or even intelligent extraterrestrials?

• In searching for extraterrestrial intelligence, senior SETI astronomer Seth Shostak relies on detecting narrow-band radio signals or brief flashes of laser light from nearby star systems. If there are 10,000 extraterrestrial societies broadcasting radio signals in the galaxy, then he estimates that SETI will need to examine 10 million star systems to find one. That will take at least two more decades.

• But with the new receivers for the Allen Telescope Array in northern California that is scheduled for 2020, SETI will be able to search for laser technosignatures, which may improve their chances. Says Shostak, “[O]ne can always hope to be taken by surprise.”

• Michael Michaud, author of the book: Contact with Alien Civilizations: Our Hopes and Fears about Encountering Extraterrestrials, says that improvements to search technologies could boost the odds of success. But there are still vast areas of the galaxy that we are not looking at. In searching for chemical technosignatures, we’ll most likely find simple life forms before finding a technological civilization.

• If SETI did find evidence of life in the galaxy, Michaud thinks the news will leak quickly. How should they announce the discovery? “[G]overnmental authorities won’t have much time for developing a public-affairs strategy,” says Michaud. Premade plans for such an announcement are unlikely because agency personnel won’t be able to get past the “giggle factor”, thinking that it is all just too absurd.

• Pete Worden, executive director of the Breakthrough Initiatives, which is affiliated with SETI, said, “I think this is going to be a long-term project. I estimate a very small probability of success (of finding extraterrestrial life) in any given year.” Nevertheless, “The Breakthrough Initiatives is committed to full and immediate disclosure of any and all results,” said Worden.

• Steven Dick, an astrobiology scholar and author of the book: Astrobiology, Discovery, and Societal Impact, says despite the work by Breakthrough Listen and NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), there’s no reason to think 2020 would be the year for discovery. “[A]ll these things combine to increase the chances over the next decade of finding extraterrestrial intelligence. I would caution, though, that any discovery will be an extended process, consisting of detection and interpretation before any understanding is achieved,” said Dick. “I see the search advancing incrementally next year, but with an accelerating possibility that life will be discovered in the near future.” “One thing that is certain is that we are getting a better handle on the issues of societal impact, should such a discovery be made.”

• Douglas Vakoch, president of the SETI-affiliated nonprofit Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI), notes that “We are right now on the verge of finding out whether there is life elsewhere in the universe.” We scan with available technologies: Earth-based observatories, space-based telescopes, and even craft that travel to other planets and moons in our solar system. “It all depends on how plentiful intelligent extraterrestrials are. If one in 10,000 star systems is home to an advanced civilization trying to make contact, then …the news we’re not alone in the universe could well come in 2020,” Vakoch says.

• “As the next generation of space telescopes is launched, we will increase our chances of detecting signs of life through changes to the atmospheres of planets that orbit other stars, giving us millions of targets in our search for even simple life in the cosmos,” says Vakoch. But we probably won’t have “definitive proof” until after 2020 when NASA launches the James Webb Space Telescope, or 2028 when the European Space Agency starts its Atmospheric Remote-Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey, or ARIEL, to study the atmospheres of exoplanets for potential signs of life.

• “[D]on’t hold your breath for discovery by 2020,” says Vakoch. Humans cannot control whether or not there is life elsewhere in the universe. “Either it’s there or it’s not.” “To be human is to live with uncertainty.” “If we demand guarantees before we begin searching, then we are guaranteed to find nothing. But if we are willing to commit to the search in the coming year and long afterwards, even without knowing we will succeed, then we are sure to discover that there is at least one civilization in the universe that has the passion and the determination to understand its place in the cosmos — and that civilization is us.”

[Editor’s Note]   Seth Shostak and his band of idiots at SETI make their living by covering up the widespread existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life all around us, on behalf of their puppet masters, the Deep State elite. Are they liars or are they being fooled themselves? If they are half the scientists they claim to be, they must know the truth. Therefore, they are the very face of the Deep State lying to the public. They are reprehensible. They talk in scientific terms about the new technologies that they employ in their phony search to find a needle in a haystack. But they insist that it will take years, and probably lifetimes before they find a microbe on a distant exoplanet. Then they add platitudes of what a grand discovery it will be if they ever find life in the universe besides humanity. But make no mistake. Their job is to never find life beyond the Earth, and they have gotten very good at it.

 

In the past three decades, scientists have found more than 4,000 exoplanets. And the discoveries will keep rolling in; observations suggest that every star in the Milky Way galaxy hosts more than one planet on average.

                  Seth Shostak

Given a convergence of ground- and space-based capability, artificial intelligence/machine learning research and other tools, are we on the verge of identifying what is universally possible for life — or perhaps even confirming the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence?

Is 2020 the celestial payoff year, in which objects of interest are found to offer “technosignatures,” indicators of technology developed by advanced civilizations?

Space.com asked top SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) experts about what next year may signal regarding detecting other starfolk.

Michael Michaud

Gaining speed
“Well, despite being the widely celebrated 100-year anniversary of the election of Warren G. Harding, 2020 will not likely gain fame as the year we first discover extraterrestrial life,” said Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.

The search for intelligent beings elsewhere, Shostak said, is largely conducted by checking out nearby star systems for either narrow-band radio signals or brief flashes of laser light. And those might succeed at any time, he told Space.com.

“But one should remember that this type of search is gaining speed in an exponential fashion, and that particular technical fact allows a crude estimate of when SETI might pay off. If we take — for lack of a better estimate — Frank Drake’s opinion that there might be 10,000 broadcasting societies in the Milky Way, then we clearly have to examine at least one [million] – 10 million stellar systems to have a reasonable chance of tripping across one. That goal will be reached in the next two decades, but certainly not in 2020,” Shostak said.

             Pete Worden

Improved searches

But there are still reasons for intelligent-alien hunters to be excited and optimistic about the coming year. Multiple existing projects will either be expanded or improved in 2020, Shostak said. For example, the SETI Institute will get new receivers for the Allen Telescope Array in northern California, and both the SETI Institute and the University of California, Berkeley, will conduct new searches for possible laser technosignatures.

“And, of course, there’s always the unexpected,” Shostak said. “In 1996, the biggest science story of the year was the claim that fossilized Martian microbes had been found in a meteorite. No one really saw that coming. So one can always hope to be taken by surprise.”

Previous predictions

“I am skeptical about picking a specific year for the first discovery. Previous predictions of success have been wrong,” said Michael Michaud, author of the thought-provoking book “Contact with Alien Civilizations: Our Hopes and Fears about Encountering Extraterrestrials” (Copernicus, 2007).

“I and others have observed that the continued improvement of our search technologies and strategies could boost the odds for success,” Michaud said, noting that the primary focus of SETI remains on radio signals. “However, we still don’t cover all frequencies, all skies, all of the time. Other types of searches have failed, too, such as looking for laser signals or Dyson spheres [ET mega-engineering projects]. Those campaigns usually have limited funding and often don’t last long.”

                   Steven Dick

A new possibility has arisen because of exoplanet discoveries, Michaud said: “In some cases, astronomers now can look for chemical evidence of life in planetary atmospheres. It is conceivable that we will find simple forms of life before we find signals from a technological civilization.”

     Douglas Vakoch

Prevailing opinion

If astronomers do someday confirm a SETI detection, how should they announce the discovery? It is an old question that has been answered in several ways.

“The prevailing opinion among radio astronomers has been that the news will leak quickly. If that is correct, scientific and governmental authorities won’t have much time for developing a public-affairs strategy,” Michaud said.

“It remains possible that the sophisticated monitoring capabilities of intelligence agencies might be the first to detect hard evidence,” Michaud said. “One might think that the government would have a plan to deal with such an event.”

But, Michaud said that his own experience suggests that such plans are unlikely to be drawn up due to a “giggle factor” and would be forgotten as officials rotated out of their positions. He previously represented the U.S. Department of State in interagency discussions of national space policy.

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Alien Life Search Update: NASA Could Soon Locate Extraterrestrials With New Telescope

by Johnny Vatican                       May 1, 2019                       (medicaldaily.com)

• The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which will go online in 2021 replacing the Hubble Telescope, will be the most sophisticated space telescope ever made. The JWST will be able to observe high redshift objects that are too old and too distant for the Hubble and other earlier instruments to observe. It promises to see deeper into time, and with much greater clarity, than any space-based or terrestrial optical telescope on Earth.

• One of the JWST’s major goals is observing some of the most distant events and objects in the universe such as the formation of the first galaxies, the formation of stars and planets, and direct imaging of exoplanets and novas. The JWST will be able to see 0.3 billion years after the Big Bang to when visible light itself was beginning to form. It will accurately measure the content of water, carbon dioxide and other components in the atmosphere of an exoplanet hundreds of light years away and will tell scientists more about the size and distance of these exoplanets are from their host suns. By measuring the chemical make-up of a planet, scientists will be able to see if it can host life.

• “Even if we never find other life in our Solar System, we might still detect it on any one of thousands of known exoplanets,” Cathal O’Connor, researcher and center manager at the University of Melbourne, said. “The ancient question ‘Are we alone?’ has graduated from being a philosophical musing to a testable hypothesis. We should be prepared for an answer.”

 

When the astonishing James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) sees first light in 2021, the world of science as we know it will never be the same again.

The most sophisticated space telescope ever made promises to see deeper into time, and with much greater clarity, than any space-based or terrestrial optical telescope on Earth. Some of the more starry-eyed fantasize JWST might even glimpse alien spacecraft hovering over their home planet.
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The replacement for the venerable Hubble Telescope will be able to see 0.3 billion years after the Big Bang to when visible light itself was beginning to form. It will accurately measure the content of water, carbon dioxide and other components in the atmosphere of an exoplanet hundreds of light years away and will tell scientists more about the size and distance of these exoplanets are from their host suns.

By measuring the chemical make-up of a planet, scientists will be able to see if it can host life.

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The Exoplanet Next Door

by John Wenz                    (astronomy.com)

• Since first detecting a weak signal from our Sun’s closest neighbor, Proxima Centauri (only 4.24 light-years away) in 2013, a group of astronomers from Germany, France and Chile who call themselves the “Pale Red Dot Team’ have been looking for – and have found – an Earth-mass planet in the habitable zone of that star. Proxima was monitored closely for subtle variations on the European Southern Observatory’s HARPS instrument over a series of nights from January 19 to March 31, 2016. By a process called radial velocity that looks for Doppler shifts in a star’s light due to the tug of a planet, the researchers could estimate the mass and orbital frequency to zero in on a planet, which they named Proxima Centauri b (PCb). Their findings were published in the science journal Nature last summer.

• Turns out that PCb is quite Earth-like. It slightly bigger and is roughly the mass of our planet and is located in just the right “Goldilocks zone” in relation to its star where, if it has an atmosphere, liquid water could exist on the surface. The exoplanet’s distance from its star is only one-fifth the distance from Mercury to the Sun. But Proxima Centauri is only a little larger than Jupiter, considered the runt of the litter in the Alpha Centauri system.

• The reason that the five billion year-old PCb planet revolves so quickly around its star is because it is tidally locked to it. The same side of the planet faces Proxima Centauri at all times, much like the same side of the Moon faces Earth at all times. But if PCb still has an atmosphere, it could reach temperatures up to 86° F (30° C) on its sunlit side, and -22° F (-30° C) on its darker side, bringing it into quite Earth-like temperature ranges. But if, for some reason, PCb has lost its atmosphere, the lack of atmosphere could have evaporated any water on the planet long ago, leaving a cold, barren planet of -40° F (-40° C).

• The key to preserving an atmosphere would be the existence of a magnetic field. Researchers have gone back and forth whether a tidally locked planet could have a core that stirs with its rotation, thus generating a magnetic field. The magnetic field shields the planet from the worst excesses of its star, which then settles into a state of relative dormancy. The Pale Red Dot astronomers believe that as a planet migrates closer to its sun while creating a magnetic field, this magnetic field could remain active even after a planet gets so close to become tidally locked to its sun.

• Astronomers need to observe the planet in greater detail in order to further characterize it. Planets are so small, the signals are so weak, it almost needs its own dedicated telescope. Currently, no instrument in space or on the ground is sensitive enough to pick up reflected light from older and smaller planets. But the James Webb Space Telescope currently under construction might be a mega-telescope that can actually detect biosignatures, or even molecules, in the atmospheres of other planets. Other proposed methods of getting deeper into a planet’s biosignature include ‘stellar suppression’ which blocks the surrounding light of the star, and infrared.

• “To find (a habitable planet) around the nearest, best-studied star … maybe we’re just really lucky, or maybe there really are just billions of M-dwarf planets out there waiting for us to find them,” says Elisabeth Newton, a Kavli post-doctoral fellow at MIT who studies red dwarf, or M-dwarf, systems. Nearly every star is suspected to have a planet. Some of those could be habitable. If it ends up that PCb is barren, then perhaps we’ll have better luck looking at the next star over, Barnard’s Star.

 

The hunt for exoplanets has, in some ways, been about the hunt for an Earth-like planet – something warm where water could exist. Headlines tout each discovery as “the most Earth-like planet yet.” Many of those planets are far away.

But a new discovery published August 24 in Nature hits closer to home, with an Earth-mass planet in the habitable zone of its star. What’s more, that star is Proxima Centauri, only 4.24 light-years away. That means that there is no solar system that will be closer to Earth in our lifetimes.

And so far, the exoplanet, named Proxima Centauri b, is shaping up to be quite Earth-like, roughly the mass of our planet and in just the right place where, if it has an atmosphere, liquid water could exist on the surface.
This is as in our backyard as it gets.

“I think it actually marks a transition,” Jeffrey Coughlin, a SETI Institute scientist not involved in the study who assembles the Kepler catalog, says. “Twenty years ago, we were finding the first exoplanets and it was totally exciting,” he says. Then there was the Kepler telescope, which found thousands of planets, including some in the habitable zone, and some within a few dozen light-years of us.

And now there’s a planet of 1.3 Earth masses right next door, zipping around its star in 11.2 days. Its distance of 4,349,598 miles (7 million kilometers) from its star may seem tiny, at just one-fifth the distance between Mercury and the Sun, but Proxima Centauri is the runt of the litter in the Alpha Centauri system. At a diameter of 124,274 miles (200,000km), it’s only 1.43 times the diameter of Jupiter.

So how was there a planet hiding around the closest star to us, just waiting to be discovered? The simple answer: Finding a planet is really hard. Kepler found thousands of planets by staring at 145,000 stars in a minute region of the sky at the tail end of Cygnus, waiting for the 1 percent chance a planet would directly pass in front of a star and cause a dip in its light, in a method known as transiting.

But the problem with the Proxima Centauri planet is that it doesn’t transit — at least not from our vantage point. In order to witness a transit, the orbital plane of the planets must be at or near our line of vision, but not all solar systems have the same orientation. A star might have all of its planets aligned at a 90-degree angle from us, with the planets orbiting in such a way that they never pass in front of their star for our telescopes to see. While some planets have been found by direct imaging (that is, appearing in a photo along with its star) it’s not possible of yet with Proxima, a 5 billion year old planet. Unless the planets are very young and very large, no instruments are currently capable of directly imaging these planets.

How to find a planet (that doesn’t want to be found)

That’s why the Pale Red Dot project, tasked with finding a planet around our nearest neighbor, had to turn to indirect — but reliable — methods of detection. The researchers chose radial velocity, a process that looks for shifts in a star’s light due to the tug of a planet, sometimes called the Doppler shift method. Subtle movements of gravity cause the light of a star to move toward the blue end of the light spectrum, which means it’s moving toward us, or the red end of the spectrum, which means it’s moving away. Based on those changes, researchers can give a mass estimate, and the frequency gives an idea of the orbit.

The planet itself was found over a series of nights from January 19 to March 31, 2016, during which Proxima was monitored closely for subtle variations on the European Southern Observatory’s HARPS instrument.

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