The search for intelligent life in the Universe just got a significant boost with the addition of a multibeam receiver at the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia. This upgrade will allow astronomers to search millions of stars for any signs of radio signals from intelligent civilizations.
The Breakthrough Initiatives Project started at the Parkes Observatory in November 2016. However, until now, the equipment was only able to listen in on stars within a few light years of Earth. Using the multibeam receiver will extend their view to a significant portion of the Milky Way galaxy.
“By trawling through these huge datasets for signatures of technological civilizations, we hope to uncover evidence that our planet, among the hundreds of billions in our Galaxy, is not the only one where intelligent life has arisen,” said Danny Price, Parkes Project Scientist with the Breakthrough Listen project at UC Berkeley.
In addition to searching for extraterrestrial civilizations, the multibeam receiver will allow astronomers at Parkes to examine the core of our galaxy, which houses a supermassive black hole. They will also collect data on fast radio bursts (FRB’s), mysterious flashes of radio waves which have perplexed researchers.
Human activities create vast amounts of radio interference, emanating from cellular phones, satellites, airplanes, and other sources. This new upgrade will provide astronomers with better tools to differentiate these signals from signals from alien civilizations.
With the new upgrade, the observatory will be able to capture 130 gigabits of data each second, thousands of times faster than a home internet connection.