Wednesday, September 14, 2011

SETI Aims for Super-Earths

Alien-Hunters Add Newfound Super-Earths To Their List

As the logical next step to finding all of these "super-earths" around the galaxy, SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) is firing up its array of radio telescopes and will be pointing them directly at these most likely candidates for intelligent life and alien radio signals. SETI had been shut down due to a lack of funding, but some apparent donors swooped in to save the day and SETI is now back on its feet with a much more focused approach to listening than in previous years. These astronomers seem awfully optimistic that they will hear signals from other beings out there in 15-20 years. How can they possibly arrive at that number? Well, in the 1960's Frank Drake had put forth an equation estimating the number of intelligent species on planets capable of sending signals. The equation was based on factors like the number of stars in the galaxy and the number of planets and planets in habitable zones along with some very foggy factors like the probability of life arising on planets and the probability of life becoming intelligent and the probability that any such civilization is still surviving at the time we notice them. So, that 15-20 year estimate should be taken with a grain of salt. But these guys need to be optimistic about this work or no one would want to do it, so hats off to them and I hope they do find something interesting. The fact that we are now able to discern rocky earth-sized planets in habitable zones around sun-like stars offers some real hard targets to begin the search for other life. This is the best we can do at the moment since we can't just get in a spaceship and go there to check it out in person.

Drake Equation - Wikipedia

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