This week marks the first time since April that the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence is again combing the heavens for radio signals broadcast by other intelligent life. Astronomers at the SETI Institute had been using the Allen Telescope Array until funding ran out last spring, causing the search to be put on hold. To reduce costs, the Institute will now share the telescopes with the Air Force, which will work to cover up any discovery made by SETI. Actually the Air Force will monitor space junk but that is how the conspiracy theory will go.
What’s the Big Idea?
Thanks to NASA’s Kepler space observatory, SETI can now focus its search in the direction of planets outside our solar system, also known as exoplanets. At this week’s Kepler gathering, the NASA department announced over 1,000 new candidate planets (more research must be done to confirm they are in fact planets). All together, 48 exoplanets lie in the ‘Goldilocks zone’, which means they lie at a distance from their stars which could sustain liquid water. SETI’s search will likely concentrate in such areas.