MeerKAT Radio Telescope Joins Hunt For Intelligent Alien Life

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MeerKAT Radio Telescope Joins Hunt For Intelligent Alien Life
Photo Credit: Danielle Futselaar / Breakthrough Listen / SARAO

Southern Hemisphere’s largest radio telescope is the latest to join the hunt for technosignatures, signals that indicate the existence of technology created by aliens. A new instrument leveraged by the MeerKAT radio telescope will amplify the number of targets that Breakthrough Listen can observe by 1,000 times.

 

Breakthrough Listen is the largest scientific research program to hunt for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life. A team of astronomers spent three years working on the instrument. The instrument is incorporated with MeerKAT’s control and monitoring systems.

Hunting For Technosignatures In The Cosmos

Breakthrough Listen has already employed the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia, and the Parkes Telescope in Australia, among others to look for technosignatures. What sets MeerKAT apart is its ability to function without physically moving its antennas. The telescope’s 64 dishes are capable of monitoring an area of the sky 50 times more than what GTB can view.

“Such a large field of view typically contains many stars that are interesting technosignature targets," said Dr. Andrew Siemion, Listen principal investigator. "Our new supercomputer enables us to combine signals from the 64 dishes to get high-resolution scans of these targets with excellent sensitivity, all without impacting the research of other astronomers who are using the array.”

MeerKAT’s Crosshair Set On Target

MeerKAT’s ability to observe 64 objects simultaneously will help Listen detect and eliminate interfering signals from spacecraft and satellites launched by humans. One of the first targets that the new instrument will focus on is Alpha Centauri. In 2020, Listen detected a strange radio signal from Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our Sun.

“It will take us just two years to search over one million nearby stars," said Dr. Cherry Ng, Listen project scientist. "MeerKAT will provide us with the ability to detect a transmitter akin to Earth’s brightest radio beacons out to a distance of 250 light years in our routine observing mode.”

Preparing For Humankind’s First ET Contact

The University of St. Andrews in Scotland has announced that it assemble a team of bright minds and prepare for the day when humanity makes first contact with the aliens.

Experts will be coming together at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Post Detection-Hub to discuss ways to respond to extraterrestrial civilization — if they ever try to contact humans or vice versa.

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