42 antennas in distant Northern California are upgraded to seek for aliens

ET could be calling, and Earth will soon be better equipped to hear him: updating a collection of radio telescopes built in a remote valley in Northern California to search for extraterrestrial broadcasts.

The Allen Telescope Array at Hat Creek Radio Observatory in east Shasta County is a 42-shell radio telescope that can survey large areas of the sky and wait for radio broadcasts from extraterrestrial civilizations. The telescope is named after the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who donated millions to the project. It is administered by the SETI Institute, a not-for-profit research organization based in Mountain View dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

Wael Farah, a scientist at SETI, said the project will improve the sensitivity of all 42 antennas that are designed to “capture” radio waves, as well as upgrade the digital signal processing system, which is the computers that actually “crunch”. Numbers and process data.

“This new processing power allows us to handle much larger bandwidth (a factor of ~ 10 compared to the old system) which means we can work astronomically faster,” Farah wrote in an email.

The project is expected to be completed by summer 2022.

Farah said the telescope’s primary objective is to find what are known as “technosignatures” – in other words, tell-tale signs of technologically advanced civilizations.

The array of radio telescopes at Hat Creek Radio Observatory in Hat Creek, California is seen on April 28, 2008. After the grouping of telescopes is completed, the grouping of telescopes serves as a listening post for signals from aliens. The range of radio telescopes is mainly funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. When completed, 350 telescopes will function as a single unit.

Robert Durell / MCT

The improved instrument will also examine rapidly rotating neutron stars known as “pulsars” and look for radio signals coming from the center of the universe of unknown origin known as “rapid bursts”.

While scientists typically have to rely on existing radio astronomy telescopes like the 300-foot-long Arecibo Shell in Puerto Rico and allow time for extraterrestrial searches, the Allen Telescope Array is fully available seven days a week thanks to Allen’s gift of nearly $ 30 million SETI missions dedicated to building the array and its associated technology.

Farah is confident that the improved instrument will help in the search for extraterrestrial life.

“There are more stars in our universe than grains of sand on Earth,” he said. “In my opinion, it would be very arrogant of us to believe that life only exists on earth. It is one of the most profound questions humanity has ever asked: ‘Are we alone?’

“We are explorers by nature, we instinctively look for answers to such questions.”

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