The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence is a collective term for a set of projects that look for existence outside of our world and known realms with the use of audio, radio and lazer systems – there is a very definite split between the believers and none believers with the existence of ‘Aliens’ out there and so some deem this research as a waste of time, money, computing time and human resources.
The SETI institute (https://setiathome.berkeley.edu/) were the first research facility to collect data from radio telescopes and then process it, the problem was that they collected so much data that their computer systems could only process this data very very slowly.
Very large Array (VLA) – SETI uses this and other facilities around the world to collect radio data for processing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Very_Large_Array
This collected data then backlogged (on magnetic computer data reels) – and more data was being collected than could be processed efficiently – funding was very limited, the volunteers and organization running the program could not afford basic resources, let alone extensive powerful data center server access – most of the processing was from time-slotted loans of resources from university computer networks. It was the same as the radio telescopes that collected the data, at other times they are required by differing science and research projects, so the require radio-scope and computation resource time could be hard to come by.
Aricibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, the original E.T. searching Radio Telescope used by SETI – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arecibo_Observatory – Image by JidoBG – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48187240
So, is this effort worth it?
On August 15th 1977, the Ohio State University’s Big Ear radio telescope (which was then used to search for extraterrestrial intelligence) picked up a ominous signal, after the event, some days later, Astronomer Jerry R. Ehman discovered the anomaly in the form of a signal that could not be attributed fully to any man-made or naturally triggered event. As he worked his way backward and forward through the print-out, it was clear that something special had occurred!
The strong narrowband signal seemingly appeared to come from the direction of the constellation Sagittarius, with the expected traits of it being an extraterrestrial origin.
In his excitement, Ehman circled and marked down the signal in a comment written as “WOW!” in pen, direct on the computer print out – this lead this particular SETI event being widely known and used as the “WOW! signal”. The signal lasted for the full 72 minute window that the Big Ear observatory was available and able to observe it, it has not been detected since (not for the want of not trying by Ehman and other colleagues from his research laboratory and others around the globe – but smaller doplar, spike and other received radio data events have been recorded. To this day, the WOW! signal is the most likely contender for possible contact from an extraterrestrial species or origin outside of our known world.
There are series’s of Fast Radio Bursts, the first of these was put under the spotlight at the Aricibo Telescope in 2010, several years after the first discovery of this particular source, occasionally radio signals are observed but not repeated at set intervals, these were different to the normal random incomingasignals in that every few weeks at set times, they burst out towards our part of the galaxy, calculations point to a non-descript galaxy some 3 billion light-years away (That’s 5 trillion times farther than the planet Pluto!)
Are we alone?
In February 2002, the BOINC project was launched (https://boinc.berkeley.edu/index.php), it is a distributed computing platform that allows for the download of Work units via an computer application, many computers around the world then process these slices of collected radio telescope data, only clunking through the data at idle computer times.
Before the BOINC project was launched, [email protected] had a software application of its own, this was in the form of a downloadable screensaver with a unique user logged in ID for account submissions, history and so on. This was discontinued due to security vulnerabilities and the BOINC software then released as a replacement client.
With the BOINC volunteered participant distributed computing software, the backlogged collected radio telescope date was processed, further verified then cleared – a feat in itself, some might say. You can still sign up for the SETI program and other very relevant science projects at the compute for science page at https://boinc.berkeley.edu/
All time statistics for completed work units can be found at https://setiathome.berkeley.edu/stats.php
Do Aliens exist or do they not? I feel they do. The only way to find out, surely, is to keep looking for them, if contact has not been made somewhere and somehow already…