ET could be spotted in a flash

Alien-hunters have built the first telescope designed to search for flashes of light from other civilisations.
The 6ft wide eye will scan the skies for visible signals from extra terrestrials in our own Milky Way galaxy.
Previous searches for aliens have relied on ET “phoning home” – using radio dishes to listen for a call across the cosmos.
Thousands of home computer users around the world have installed screensavers that search data for these radio signals.
Cruise ship passengers are used to seeing children flashing sunlight from pocket mirrors as they sail past Mediterranean islands.
The new 72-inch telescope, at the Oak Ridge Observatory, at Harvard, Massachusetts, will watch for a super-powerful version of the same phenomenon – laser signals from aliens wanting to contact other civilisations.
As it watches the stars, data will be analysed by software powerful enough to process every book in print in the world every second.
Director of the new telescope, Paul Horowitz, of Harvard University, said: “This new search apparatus performs one trillion measurements per second.”
Experts believe that alien civilisations are at least as likely to use visible light signals for communicating as they are to use radio transmissions.
A bright laser flash can be so tightly focused that it would appear ten thousands times brighter than the alien’s parent star for an instant.
Such a beam could be easily observed across hundreds of light-years of space.
Like the radio search, the project is part of SETI – the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence. It is funded by America’s Planetary Society through members’ donations and grants from scientific bodies.
Bruce Betts, of the Planetary Society, said: “Sending laser signals across the cosmos would be a very logical way for ET to reach out. But until now, we have been ill-equipped to receive any such signal.”

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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