No encounters: most ambitious alien search to date draws a blank

The search for alien life goes on, but so far, this major study has drawn a blank.…

Astronomers who have been listening for signals from alien civilisations in the most intensive hunt for extraterrestrials yet have found no
evidence of life in its first year in operation.

The Breakthrough Listen project began to eavesdrop on the universe with the Green Bank observatory in West Virginia in January last year, but the most
intelligent transmissions the telescope has picked up so far appear to be from satellites or mobile phones and other earthly devices.

Data released by the project on Thursday revealed eleven of the most promising signals detected, but after close inspection scientists concluded that
the radiowaves probably came from humans rather than other intelligent lifeforms.

This study focuses on looking for signals being transmitted in the 1 to 2 GHZ frequency bands. Why?

Studies in the 1960s and 1970s identified the one to two GHz frequency band as the most promising hunting ground for alien transmissions.
Having found it to be silent, the astronomers now intend to scour higher frequencies in the hope that alien transmissions lurk there.

“A really important part of the Breakthrough programme is to explore as much of the electromagnetic spectrum, both radiowave and optical signals, as
we possibly can,” Siemion said.

The astronomers look for high energy signals at a steady frequency and position in the sky. “The problem is if you take a radio telescope and look
for signals like that you find lots and lots, and of course most are coming from our own technology. The big challenge is to discriminate between
distant technology and our own technology on Earth.

This differs from the search from NASA for life supporting planets and moons which may support microbial life, we seem closer to detecting this than
ever before.

A worthwhile endeavour, but I suspect that if alien life exists, it may in fact be unrecognisable to humans. It could be living alongside us, with
humans simply not being able to detect or understand it, similar to the analogy of a major freeway being built next to an ants nest. Would the ants
have any comprehension of what they are seeing?

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