(ORDO NEWS) — Traditionally, the hunt for intelligent alien civilizations has focused on radio signals, but now researchers intend to look for pulses of light that could indicate the presence of alien intelligence in outer space.
The four VERITAS telescopes, located at Kitt Peak Observatory in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, will soon be used to search for intelligent alien civilizations, or rather, communications with which they can communicate with each other. Note that the hunt for intelligent life in the universe is primarily focused on radio signals from distant worlds. But since we still have not found the answer to the question “where is everyone?”, Formulated by Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi, astronomers turn to more diverse types of signals, recognizing that we actually have very few ideas about
VERITAS is a ground-based telescope complex that consists of four 12-meter optical reflector telescopes.
In search of “little green men”
Researchers at Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Listen project to search for extraterrestrial life in the Universe are collaborating with astronomers from the VERITAS observatory (Very Energy Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System) located in Arizona. Their joint efforts are aimed at finding pulses of light that may be a sign of alien intelligence. Typically, VERITAS telescopes look for gamma-ray sources in the sky, but scientists use the observatory’s many telescopes to look for even more elusive targets.
“When it comes to intelligent life outside of Earth, we don’t know where it exists or how it communicates. Our main idea is to expand the search as much as possible, which has become possible with the VERITAS telescope complex, ”Yuri Milner, founder of the Breakthrough Listen project, told reporters back in July 2019.
Today, VERITAS is the world’s most powerful gamma ray telescope complex: four telescopes detect cosmic gamma rays by observing extremely short bursts of blue light known as Vavilov-Cherenkov radiation or Cherenkov radiation. Gamma rays create it when they hit the upper part of the Earth’s atmosphere, forming an optical version of the sonic boom. It is also noteworthy that despite our inability to see rays outside the narrow visible range without additional instruments, Cherenkov radiation can be seen with the naked eye.
Note that the use of all four telescopes simultaneously allows astronomers to observe such amazing space objects as the mysteriously fading star Tabby. In 2016, scientists used archival data from the VERITAS telescopes to take a close look at this star with strange fluctuations that some believed could be caused by an alien design. However, as my colleague Nikolai Khizhnyak writes in his article, the unusual behavior of this star has nothing to do with aliens. Hopefully, in the future, astronomers can finally explain the reasons why this (and other unusual stars) behave so strangely.
What are astronomers looking for?
The new observation program (VERITAS and Breaktrough Listen) is designed to provide an additional search for optical impulse signatures of a huge number of stars. Researchers involved in these projects are also studying the sky at more traditional radio frequencies, listening for signs of alien communication. The search for representatives of extraterrestrial civilizations is also focused on ensuring that observations cover as much of the sky as possible for as long as possible, so it’s safe to say that astronomers today do not miss a single potential call from aliens.
Now the VERITAS telescope complex is set up to search for weak flashes of light, the very Vavilov-Cherenkov radiation, which last only a few billionths of a second. Agree, this is a rather difficult task, but the telescopes of the observatory in Arizona are able to capture Cherenkov radiation and even determine exactly where gamma rays hit the Earth, as well as trace them to a source in distant space. Fantastic, not otherwise!
Yuri Milner is a billionaire, businessman, founder of the DST Global fund group. The former co-owner of Mail.ru Group, is known for his contribution to scientific projects to find life in the Universe.
The Breakthrough Initiatives researchers rightly believe that the incredibly powerful VERITAS telescopes can pick up a faint pulse of optical light that might come from alien communications. While humans still use radio for space communications, NASA has also used optical laser signals to transmit data in space, so there is every reason to believe that aliens could use this technology for their own purposes.
Of course, no one knows exactly how aliens can communicate with people, or even with each other, if they exist at all. However, each time trying something new in this so far unsuccessful search, scientists hope to find in this cold and endless universe there is someone other than us. We wish them good luck with all our hearts.
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