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Nothing But the Facts About SETI - The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence

written by: Ricky•edited by: Jason C. Chavis•updated: 5/27/2010

The concept of SETI, is very mysterious and enthralling. We have been listening to the universe for decades now in the hope that our silent friends across the boundless void would conjure up some signals for us to detect. Here are some facts about SETI.

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    Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence

    META II Telescope 

    The figure on the right is the telescope used in the META II project located near Buenos Aires, Argentina. More information on this project is described in the next section.

    The image below shows an amateur set up for SETI signals analysis.

    Amateur SETI Analysis Setup 

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    Facts On the SETI Project

    1. What it Stands For: Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence
    2. Purpose of SETI: To find out about the existence of intelligent life anywhere in the universe
    3. Medium of Search: Trying to find signals which have artificial origin from outer space
    4. Underlying Principle of Possible Communication with Aliens: Dependence on Mathematics for communication
    5. Is There a Single Organisation by the Name SETI: No. Rather, it refers to the worldwide efforts carried out by different independent group of scientists and enthusiasts
    6. Typical Research Time by a Non Dedicated Radio Telescope: 5% of the entire project time
    7. SETI Listenining Window: Microwave Spectrum
    8. Range: 1 to 10 GHz
    9. Total Channels in this Range: 9 Billion
    10. Current Signal Processing Limitations: 100 millions channels at a time
    11. Observations Required for each Sky Position: 90
    12. Water Hole: A section of the radio spectrum between - 1420 (21 centimeter line) MHz to 1662 MHz
    13. Why this Range of Water Hole: Corresponds to Radio Frequencies emitted by Hydrogen and Hydroxyl Ions
    14. Significance of Water Hole: Any civilization worth its salt would know about the hydrogen and hydroxyl lines which lie in a very quiet part of the spectrum and form the signposts for a natural interstellar communication, hence searching near the water hole greatly increases the chances of finding an alien species - [provided they think along the same lines as we do!]
    15. SETI@home: A project where ordinary users combine their computer power to process data for analysing results of signals. Based in Berkeley in California and the telescope used is the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico
    16. Project BETA: A project that utilizes the 84-foot radio telescope at the Oak Ridge Observatory in Massachusetts for SETI signals
    17. Project SERENDIP: Based in Berkeley in California, this project uses a receiver attached to the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico and its main purpose is to find signals from nearby civilizations if they are advanced enough to send such signals
    18. Optical SETI: combined name for two projects based in Harvard and two in Berkeley aimed to detect optical signals from alien civilisations.
    19. Project META: Acronym for Megachannel Extraterrestrial Assay and refers to a past project which ran for nearly one decade from 1985 to 1994 covering most of the northern hemisphere sky of -30 to +60 declination using drift scan mode
    20. Project META II: Megachannel Extraterrestrial Assay (META II) can be said to be the sister project of META and is located near Buenos Aires at the Argentina Institute of Radio Astronomy and is aimed to detect any intelligent signals in the southern hemispherical sky
    21. Findings Till Date: Until now no conclusive evidence has been found in favour of the presence of any aliens in the universe but the search continues in the hope that we are not alone in this gigantic universe