SETI@Home – Joining The Global Search For Alien LifeFirst Published: March 22, 2018 Last updated: April 1st, 2018 Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes
If you are reading this, then the chances are you have at least a passing interest in alien life and what might lay out there in the infinite vastness of the cosmos. Furthermore, you very well might welcome the chance to join a global effort in the search for extra-terrestrial life – or at least the signals of it.
We have written before of the scientific, and widely accepted certainty of alien life elsewhere in the Universe. The thousands upon thousands of known galaxies and star systems, not to mention the infinite number unknown to us, all but guarantees this. However, once we speak about “intelligent life” – or at least intelligent in our understanding of the word – then the rules of the game change a little. Now we go from general indicators of a lifeform to very specific requirements that lead to an increased probability of intelligent life at least at a level to ourselves. The main thrust of this monitoring of the cosmos is SETI.
SETI’s main objective is to listen to the vast number of signals and radio waves coming at us from the deep reaches of space. The hope is, that an anomaly will show itself, which may, in turn, suggest purposeful electronic signals. This would likely make the source to be “intelligent” extra-terrestrial life. And depending on what is found in the signal, be a moment of great joy or great worry.
SETI At Home gives every person who owns a computer the chance to join this all-inclusive effort from the comfort of their own home. Perhaps before you go ahead, maybe you would like to know a little more about SETI and what they aim to do. And, given some of the accusations of signals received being hidden from the public, why an ever-growing number of independent eyes on the cosmos might be key to revealing the answer to intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe.
If you’re not interested in reading the whole article and want to join in the search right away, you can do so by following the instructions here.
Where, And Why It All Began
As the 1950s were left behind and the hysteric-like approach to the vast amounts of “flying saucer” sightings began to calm somewhat, many people’s interest remained, but in a scientific capacity. With the space race providing a background of inevitability to humanity’s meeting with extra-terrestrials, some people began to think deeper than “little green men from Mars” in terms of the question of alien life.
One of first of these people was Frank Drake, who in 1960 at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, would become the first astronomer to formally and purposely search the cosmos for extra-terrestrial life. His efforts would soon become SETI.
Part of their ideal was to bring a firm, scientific approach to the search for alien life. This would ultimately result in the “Drake Equation” – scientific reasoning why life on other planets very likely exists. The reasoning behind this lays in the details we take from observable space in our part of the universe, the Milky Way.
So, if the Milky Way is N, we have to take into account: the rate at which new stars are born each year (R)x, how many of these stars have planets (fp)x, and the average number of planets similar to Earth likely to support life (ne)x. We then need to decide the likely amount of those life-supporting planets where life does actually develop (fl)x, and then in turn what fraction of that life will be intelligent (fi)x, and further still, the amount of those intelligent civilizations that will develop such communication that can reach across the cosmos (fc)x. The average lifetime of such intelligent civilizations also needs to be factored in (L).
The equation itself is N = R X Fp X Ne X Fl X Fi X Fc X L
It’s Not An Offensive, We’re Just Listening!
The initial experiment by Drake in 1960 at Green Bank, West Virginia, went under the name ‘Project Ozma’. Using an 85-foot diameter radio telescope, Drake would search the Tau Ceti, and Epsilon Eridani star systems for interstellar radio waves. Although he wouldn’t pick up any unusual signals to suggest alien life, it was an important first step in monitoring the universe.
Undeterred by this initial “failure” to locate anything of interest, he would gather some of the best, young scientists to join him. Throughout the decades, more and more likeminded scientists and astronomers would come together from across the planet. All looking for the same thing, and all in agreement, short of them “showing up on the White House lawn” that this was the best way to find it.
We as a collective send a whole array of signals into the cosmos every day and have done so electronically through radio waves and such in abundance since the early 1900s. Perhaps it is worth bearing in mind this very well may be a reason for the drastic increase in sightings from the mid-twentieth century onwards.
Although the deployment of nuclear bombs is often regarded as the reason for an increase in sightings (which themselves would send out energy waves into space), with the creation and mass distribution of radios and televisions, and more recently the Internet, more and more signals and masses of electronic information is heading out into the Universe.
As bizarre a notion as it is, anything from a commercial that ran in the Super Bowl, to the “I Have A Dream” speech by Martin Luther King could be the first data and ultimately, the first image an alien race has of humanity.
Sending signals out, however, is not the main drive of SETI.
The “Wow Signal!”, And Accusations Of Suppressed Data
One of the few purposely designed communication signals sent out from Earth was in 1974. It left from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The message was named after the observatory and was designed by the aforementioned, Frank Drake.
The message was in binary form. It contained information about the human race, the population of the Earth, atomic and numerical systems, and even human DNA. The signals were sent towards the globular cluster M13 star system, which resides around 25,000 light years away.
Three years later, on 15th August 1977, at the SETI program at Ohio State University, Jerry R. Ehman would discover a very definite anomaly while monitoring narrowband radio signals from the cosmos. So strong and out of place was the signal that Ehman immediately circled them, writing the word “Wow!” next to them. He strongly suspected them to be non-terrestrial. In fact, they appeared to have come from the Sagittarius constellation.
Aside from the “Wow Signal” there has been no official reply or significant anomalies. However, a declassified NSA document, “Key To The Extra-Terrestrial Messages” would raise an eyebrow or two in conspiracy and UFO circles when it showed that twenty-nine “messages” had been received since the Arecibo message was sent into the cosmos. These “replies” were also in binary form. What they actually said, however, remains classified, if indeed a record even exists.
Incidentally, many were (and still are) critical of sending out such information out into the unknown. Such information as our genetic make-up and our location could be an invitation hostile aliens wouldn’t pass up. These claims are not simply made by conspiracy theorists either. Such highly respected thinkers as Stephen Hawking was one of the loudest voices on such topics.
A Global Effort, And The Seeds Of SETI At Home
The recording of “Wow Signal” was the result of recruiting scientists and volunteers from all over the world. Anyone, who in the interests of perhaps making the greatest discovery in humanity’s history, would use their time to monitor the infinite reaches of space. The volunteer group at Ohio State University began their operations in 1973. They would remain on campus until 1997 when the university closed the radio telescope.
Other notable efforts include Project BETA, a privately funded project by The Planetary Society at Harvard University. Project BETA began operations in October 1995. What was an especially important capability of the BETA project was its use of two adjacent beams. These would allow “rapid and automatic re-observation of candidate signals”. BETA’s custom-built digital processing boards allowed it to receive 250 million channels at any one time. The project would come to an abrupt end, however, in 1999 when a storm caused damage to the radio telescope.
There continues to be global efforts to locate incoming signals that might indicate alien life. Significant operations continue today in Australia and Italy, for example. Many more small-scale efforts, however, usually by amateurs in science, astronomy, and radio technology, were taking place throughout the world.
As individuals, their contributions may prove to be valuable, but there was no consistent and concerted effort. In 1999, however, came one of the largest ever rollouts of computing software for the purposes of research. This would enable these amateur alien hunters to essentially join forces, not only with each other but with SETI themselves.
How Does It work, And Why You Should Get Involved!
For humans, be it through SETI or any other organization, to monitor the entire universe constantly would take a super-computer. And even then, it wouldn’t be enough in terms of power and data. However, the number of volunteers conducting their own smaller-scale study of the stars would present a solution. SETI proposed that many smaller computers, working at the same time, would overcome this problem.
All volunteers need to do is install a special screensaver on their computer. When the computer is not in use, this screensaver will contact SETI. It then connects to its network, allowing SETI to utilize the processing power of the computer’s hard drive.
Through UFO Insight, you can be part of a team looking to assist in scanning the galaxy for signs, and indeed signals of intelligent life. Should your computer be the one that happens to pick up that second “Wow Signal!”, you are likely to be a part of a true turning point in human history.
You will also be able to keep up to date with the statistics and data produced by Team RBFTP Networks. In short, you would be part of, and contributing to the potential discovery of intelligent life beyond our planet.
One of the reasons the “Wow Signal” was ultimately dismissed was because it was a one-off and didn’t repeat itself. Imagine, if the amount of processing power was available back then through such projects as SETI At Home. Perhaps a repeat of that signal is found.
Reasons Within Reasons!
Even if the “Wow Signal” was a one-off, that should not make it irrelevant. As the Society for Planetary Defense would state, “…in 1974 our largest radio telescope in Arecibo Puerto Rico beamed out a powerful signal into the cosmos….and never repeated!” Perhaps that message was a response, or perhaps it was a civilization much like ourselves. One reaching out in a similar away to whoever might lay beyond their planet. Once only!
We have written several articles from an ancient astronaut perspective. Or at the possible reasons for many of the alien interactions with the human race. Although it isn’t part of the objective of SETI or SETI At Home, by finding intelligent alien life, it could reveal so much about the true history of humans on Earth, and possibly elsewhere.
Of course, having such an active involvement also makes you privy to any incoming signals. Perhaps the more of “us” that take part makes the concealment of such information more and more difficult.
Before you go ahead and join us, and SETI in the global search for intelligent life out there in the cosmos, perhaps it is worth reading the following from the SETI Institute’s website in 2010, “Today, we still strive to survive but now life has also reached the point where its exploration path has come to question its own origin. Indeed, we do explore to understand where we came from and define the meaning, if any, of this wonderful universal journey of ours. It is fascinating to realize how, as we walk the Earth, the surface of other planets, soon the Milky Way and beyond, that this journey gives greater depth to our consciousness, for exploration is also very much an inward voyage.”
How To Join
If you wish to join the official UFO Insight team and the search for alien life, all you have to do is:
- Go grab the client by clicking here. We’ll keep you posted on client updates. They’re working on ’em.
- Join the UFO Insight team here.
- Tell yourself that you rule. And that you will smash all the other members of Team UFO Insight on our team stats page.
The two videos below will also show you a little more about SETI At Home and the possibilities it brings.