A group of Irish physicists, utilizing the cutting-edge Irish LOFAR telescope, conducted a comprehensive survey of 1.6 million star systems previously identified as intriguing candidates for detecting signs of extraterrestrial technology.
This initiative, an integral part of the Breakthrough Listen project and the latest Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) endeavor, marked a pioneering foray into scanning radio frequencies significantly lower than those targeted in prior attempts.
Although this exhaustive examination did not yield any conclusive evidence of alien technology, the 1.6 million star systems analyzed represent only a fraction of the potential search field.
The researchers involved are already in the process of upgrading their equipment to extend their reach across an even broader spectrum of radio frequencies.
The official announcement from the research team at Trinity College of Dublin underscores that endeavors to detect radio signals from other star systems have a history spanning more than six decades.
Once regarded as a marginal scientific pursuit at best and a lamentable misallocation of resources at worst, these efforts have gradually gained momentum thanks to an accumulating body of scientific evidence suggesting that conditions for life in the cosmos are widespread.
“In the last 50 years, evidence has steadily mounted that the constituents and conditions necessary for life are relatively common in the Universe,” explained Professor Evan Keane, Associate Professor of Radio Astronomy in Trinity’s School of Physics, “which begs one of life’s greatest unanswered questions: are we really alone?”
In their published findings, which appeared in the Astronomical Journal, the researchers emphasize that previous SETI work predominantly concentrated on frequencies exceeding 1 GHz due to the limitations of single-dish telescopes.
In contrast, the team harnessed an array of multiple telescopes, enabling them to explore frequencies as low as 110 – 190 MHz, a range far below the threshold of any prior SETI investigations.
“What makes surveys like this one truly captivating is the fact that we’re pushing these telescopes to their absolute limits, directing them towards substantial portions of the sky,” said Owen Johnson, Ph.D. Candidate in Trinity’s School of Physics and the study’s first author.
“As a result, we have the exciting possibility of discovering all sorts of wild and wondrous phenomena during this process and, if we’re very fortunate, even encountering our cosmic neighbours.”