Feeds

UK boffins are going on an alien hunt

Going to catch a big one...

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Physicists have been hearing this afternoon about attempts by UK astronomers to find evidence of alien life - buried in over 2000 hours of archived telescope data.

A group of researchers at Leeds University re-examined images collected by the Whipple Cherenkov telescope in Arizona, and presented the results at The Insititute of Physics conference, Nuclear and Particle Physics Conference at the University of Surrey.

Whipple is used primarily for detecting high energy gamma rays, but is also useful for spotting the kind of optical signal that could be used to identify alien civilisations, the researchers say.

Dr Joachim Rose at Leeds University said: “The Whipple telescope has an ultra high-speed camera to record faint flashes of light from cosmic rays and from high-energy gamma rays entering the Earth’s atmosphere. There are 20 to 30 naturally occurring light flashes recorded every second. A few unusual images from extraterrestrial’s signals would be easy to miss as the analysis software normally rejects anything that it doesn't expect.

"On average we see such an unusual flash every six hours when pointing in the direction of one of these candidate stars. However, this is comparable to the rate of similar flashes in other regions of the sky where there is no candidate star.

The team has examined more than 2000 hours of telescope data from the archives, and it isn't letting anything as boring as a lack of solid results get in its way. Dr Stella Bradbury, who also works on the project, quotes astronomer Frank Drake: “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”.

She continues: ”So far only a minute fraction of the sky has been searched and arrays of telescopes can carry out much more sensitive searches than a single telescope”. ®

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.