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Yes, I’m Searching for Aliens – And No, I Won’t Be Going to Area 51 to Look For Them

Listen to “E47 7-31-19 Yes, I’m Searching for Aliens – And No, I Won’t Be Going to Area 51 to Look For Them” on Spreaker.

Article by Bryan Keogh                 July 19, 2019                  (theconversation.com)

  • Astronomy professor Jason Wright is a participating scientist with SETI, the ‘Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence’, and the 2018 winner of the Frank Drake Award that SETI bestows on its researchers who are “dedicated to understanding humanity’s place in the universe”. “Believe me, no one wants to find evidence of extraterrestrial life more than those of us in this field,” says Professor Wright. “We scour the skies for evidence of such extraterrestrial technologies with some of the most advanced equipment in the world for understanding what’s going on in the sky, and we haven’t found anything compelling yet.”

  • With regard to the recent interest in “Storming Area 51” to emancipate aliens, Wright says, “I don’t know very much about Area 51, but I can say that the intense interest in the goings on there related to aliens reveals a deep public interest in what kinds of life might exist elsewhere in the universe.” Wright finds the most fascinating thing about Area 51 is Project Mogul, where the government floated balloons to detect Soviet nuclear testing in the 1940’s. Says Wright, “When one of those balloons… landed in a farm in Roswell, New Mexico it helped fuel the whole alien craze we’re still living with today.”

  • SETI’s space telescopes are designed to detect “biosignatures” with signs of microfossils or metabolism in the atmospheres of distant planets. But SETI is a privately funded operation. NASA and the National Science Foundation spend next to nothing looking for intelligent life in the universe, including technological life.

  • Says Professor Wright, “I see this (Frank Drake) award as validation of my work to help elevate the field of SETI as an academic discipline, and to persuade Congress, NASA and the public that it is worthy of public investment. It is, after all, the scientific approach to answering one of the most profound questions ever asked: Is Earth life unique? Or are there other beings like us out there in the universe?”

  • [Editor’s Note]  Frank Drake was a founding member of SETI and developer of the “Drake Equation” in 1961, which uses a list of subjective variables to determine that the number of planets similar to the Earth that could possibly host an extraterrestrial civilization advanced enough to use radio-wave communication is astonishingly small. This is the basis for SETI’s nearly 60-years of searching for extraterrestrial intelligence.

    As the most recent recipient of the Drake Award, Professor Wright is shilling for the re-establishment of SETI funding from the government which ended in 1993, even though SETI’s research has existed since the early 1960’s and they have found exactly nothing through this process. It seems that the purpose of SETI is to appear to the public to be scientifically searching for extraterrestrial civilizations, while actually finding nothing that might upset the Deep State’s cover-up of a long-standing extraterrestrial presence in our solar system. Wright pretends to know nothing about Area 51 or the Roswell crash, recognizing only Project Mogul which the Deep State used to cover-up the Roswell crash. This, apparently, is the primary criteria for being awarded the Frank Drake Award.

    This is further evidence that SETI is nothing more than a Deep State disinformation program to give the public the impression that serious scientists are doing serious work to locate extraterrestrial life, but there simply isn’t any in this universe to find besides humans on planet Earth. The “scientists” at SETI believe that they should be paid handsomely by the US government for doing the Deep State’s bidding.

 

What started as an internet joke has generated a stern military warning after more than a million people “signed up” to “raid” Area 51 – a secretive military installation in Southern Nevada long fancied by conspiracy theorists to be hiding evidence of a crashed UFO with aliens. The purpose of the planned raid is in order to “see them aliens.” In the following Q&A, astronomy professor Jason Wright discusses the public’s interest in answering the age-old question: Are we alone?

Professor Jason Wright

Since you have a longstanding scholarly interest in extraterrestrial life – and even wrote about the possibility of advanced civilizations in the distant past on Mars or Venus – I presume you’ve canceled your classes for Sept. 20 and signed up to go to the “raid” on Area 51?

To be honest, I was completely unaware of this “raid” until you brought it to my attention! I work in SETI, the scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and believe me, no one wants to find evidence of extraterrestrial life more than those of us in this field. We scour the skies for evidence of such extraterrestrial technologies with some of the most advanced  equipment in the world for understanding what’s going on in the sky, and we haven’t found anything compelling yet. But we’re not paying much attention to what happens in Area 51.

Do you think the public knows enough about Area 51? Or is the widespread interest in this raid a good barometric read on how frustrated people are that the government appears to be hiding something there?

I don’t know very much about Area 51, but I can say that the intense interest in the goings on there related to aliens reveals a deep public interest in what kinds of life might exist elsewhere in the universe.

Have you yourself ever tried to do any real research into the happenings in Area 51?

Not Area 51, exactly. The closest I’ve come was a talk I heard by a physicist describing the fascinating science carried out by the military back in the late 1940s, especially Project Mogul, which launched microphones on balloons to see if they could detect nuclear testing going on in the Soviet Union. It’s an amazing story of physics and engineering ingenuity. When one of those balloons with its disc microphones and radar reflectors landed in a farm in Roswell, New Mexico it helped fuel the whole alien craze we’re still living with today. It’s a shame, because the science-fiction-inspired “aliens” conspiracy theory is – from my standpoint – so much less fascinating than the story of the research that was going on then.

There was a time when the federal government provided researchers with money to search for – and teach about the search for – extraterrestrial life. And you’ve lamented that that is no longer the case. If you had your way, how much money do you think the federal government should give America’s researchers to search for aliens or evidence of aliens?

The search for life in the universe is a major priority for NASA and American science. Many of our missions to Mars and our space telescopes are designed with the detection of biosignatures in mind – “biosignatures” being signs of life like microfossils or evidence of metabolism in the atmospheres of distant planets. But despite the billions of dollars spent on these missions, I think many members of the public would be surprised to learn that NASA and the National Science Foundation spend next to nothing looking for intelligent life in the universe, including technological life that might, after all, be easier to find. I think the level of funding for the field should be determined the way the rest of science is, by competitive peer review of proposals for research. So, I don’t know what the “right” level is, but I know it’s not zero.

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Could Nearby Asteroids Be Hideouts for Alien Spies?

by Eric Mack                   March 26, 2019                   (cnet.com)

• The vast majority of asteroids orbit the sun in a wide belt between Jupiter and Mars. Some wander farther into the inner solar system near Earth’s orbit. There’s a rarer type of object called a “quasi-satellite” that may spend centuries or longer making oddly shaped orbits around our planet. One example is asteroid 2016 HO3, also known as “Earth’s Constant Companion” (pictured above). These ‘co-orbital objects’ have only come to our attention in the past decade, for the most part. (watch 1:14 minute video on asteroid 2016 HO3 below)

• James Benford, a SETI enthusiast (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has authored a paper that postulates that these “co-orbital objects [are] an attractive location for extraterrestrial intelligence to locate a probe to observe Earth while not being easily seen.” Benford refers to alien spies the sky as “lurkers.” We may not have noticed anything because any sort of ancient automated alien spy system could be dead or lie dormant for long periods of time.

• James Benford’s twin brother Gregory, an astrophysicist, also weighs in saying, “Lurkers from the far past may have done their duty and slowly failed … the ruins of Lurker installations, including mining for resources on nearby orbiting sites, may be visible, even though their animating intelligences are long gone.” “This means we should consider searches over decades-long time scales.”

• SETI focuses on looking beyond our solar system and essentially listening to distant stars for signs of life. James Benford argues that it’s much easier to prove or disprove some alien construction is in a near-Earth orbit. “We can observe them, ping them with radar, transmit messages to them, send robotic probes to them and visit them with human spacecraft missions,” writes Benford.

• Douglas Vakoch, formerly of the SETI Institute and currently president of METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence), which is funded in part by NASA, says, “The notion of searching for lurkers by transmitting to likely locations in our solar system provides an intriguing possibility for finding common ground in Active SETI.” “Some of the same individuals who have been cautious about Active SETI transmissions to other stars are advocates of pinging nearby aliens — on the grounds that the extraterrestrials would already know we are here.”

• The idea that an extraterrestrial spy satellite might be hidden near our planet isn’t new. The late Stanford professor Ronald Bracewell proposed in a 1960 paper that advanced alien civilizations might place artificial intelligence near inhabited planets to monitor the progress of less advanced worlds and perhaps make contact at some point.

• “What have we to lose by checking out these objects?” Benford writes. “Nobody has really looked at these co-orbitals, other than orbital calculations and faint images. We know almost nothing about them.” Benford plans to submit his paper to the Astrophysical Journal.

 

Plans are in the works to send a tiny spacecraft to another star system in search of alien life. But what if another civilization has already launched a similar mission to observe Earth without our knowledge?

James Benford, who authored the definitive book on high-power microwaves and has written about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, says in a draft paper that a “recently discovered group of nearby co-orbital objects is an attractive location for extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) to locate a probe to observe Earth while not being easily seen.”

              James Benford

In the paper, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, Benford refers to alien eyes in (or above) the sky as “lurkers.” He goes on to give several examples of co-orbital objects (all of which are probably asteroids) that could be worth checking for them.

Benford runs a company called Microwave Sciences that designs and consults on high-power microwave systems. He often collaborates on his SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) work with his twin brother Gregory Benford, a noted science-fiction author, and his son Dominic Benford, a scientist at NASA.

While the vast majority of asteroids orbit the sun in a wide belt between Jupiter and Mars, some wander farther into the inner solar system near Earth’s orbit.

There’s an even rarer type of object called a “quasi-satellite” that may spend centuries or longer making often oddly shaped orbits around our planet. One example is asteroid 2016 HO3, also known as “Earth’s Constant Companion,” which is detailed in the below video from NASA.

The idea that an extraterrestrial spy satellite might be hidden near our planet isn’t new. The late Stanford electrical engineering professor Ronald Bracewell proposed in an oft-referenced 1960 paper that advanced alien civilizations might place artificial intelligence near inhabited planets to monitor the progress of less advanced worlds and perhaps make contact at some point.

Of course, we have observatories keeping watch on the thousands of known near-Earth objects and discovering new ones almost daily. A handful of asteroids has been visited by spacecraft, including NASA’s Osiris-Rex and Japan’s Hayabusa-2 that are currently orbiting space rocks. So far, such observations have yielded no evidence of anything alien or artificial.

But the co-orbital objects that Benford said deserve more attention are relatively new discoveries, having come to our attention in the past decade for the most part. And we may not have noticed anything because any sort of automated alien spy system placed long ago could be dead or lie dormant for long periods of time, making it difficult to detect.

1:14 minute NASA video on Asteroid 2016 Ho3 – Earth’s Constant Companion

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Penn State Center to Focus on Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

by Geoff Rushton                   March 4, 2019                     (statecollege.com)

• The Pennsylvania State University, or “Penn State”, has received a $2.5 million endowment from alumnus John and Natalie Patton, plus another $1 million anonymous pledge, to create “PSETI” – Penn State’s SETI program (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). It will be called the Penn State Extraterrestrial Intelligence Center.

• PSETI will create a “world-class SETI research program,” establish graduate curriculum to train the next generation of researchers, initiate a competitive research grants program, coordinate conferences and symposia and establish a permanent, worldwide SETI community.

• SETI is an international scientific effort that seeks to answer whether ours is the only technologically-capable species in the Milky Way galaxy. Jason Wright, an associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics who will lead the center, told Science Magazine the field has been lacking in academic training.

• SETI also has been lacking in financial support since 1993, when Congress prohibited NASA from funding it. Wright told Science that the prospect of no funding and few jobs has discouraged researchers from pursuing the field, and that he had identified only five people with doctoral degrees in SETI-related research.

 

Penn State is planning to establish an international research center dedicated to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), an initiative that would be one of only a few academic SETI research centers and would offer a graduate program training the next generation of researchers.

The university announced last week the first two donations, totaling $3.5 million, toward creating the Penn State Extraterrestrial Intelligence Center.

SETI is an international scientific effort that seeks to answer whether ours is the only technologically-capable species in the Milky Way galaxy. Jason Wright, an associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics who will lead the center, told Science Magazine the field has been lacking in academic training.

“There really isn’t an academic ecosystem for the field as a whole,” Jason Wright, associate professor of astronomy PSETI Center head. “You can’t work on it if you can’t hire students and postdocs.”

SETI also has been lacking in financial support since 1993, when Congress prohibited NASA from funding it. Wright told Science that the prospect of no funding and few jobs has discouraged researchers from pursuing the field, and that he had identified only five people with doctoral degrees in SETI-related research.

Penn State will draw on its infrastructure and expertise to provide PSETI with endowment funding and administrative framework. The university’s existing astronomy and astrophysics departments and centers make it a “natural home” for a new center.

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