SETI astronomers expand extraterrestrial search

SETI astronomers haven’t found extraterrestrials -- yet

Astronomers with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) project will this month will expand their coordinated outer space observations to include new five new stars in the hope of obtaining radio and laser signals from civilizations circling those targets.

All told, Project Dorothy will involve astronomers from twelve countries on six continents and mark the 50th anniversary of first coordinated series of observations from SETI. The SETI Institute will observe the five target stars using the Allen Telescope Array which at this point includes about 40 small dishes pointed skyward in California.

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The first SETI experiment, Project Ozma, was conducted in April 1960 by astronomer Frank Drake, now at the SETI Institute. Project Ozma -- named after the heroine in  the book "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" -- listened for radio signals from extraterrestrial civilizations and started a new field of science, the researchers stated. 

 "Over the past fifty years our searches have not yet produced the discovery we all hope for. This is understandable -- in our vast and awesome universe it will take long, painstaking, and comprehensive searches before we will have a good chance of success," said Drake in a release.  "To have so many talented people using so many telescopes in this new search, with the electronics and computer equipment of today, is a joyful thing to me. The equipment of today is far better than what we could have fifty years ago, and will result in both very much better and very much more data than could be obtained then."

According to SETI, two of the original stars from Project Ozma -- Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani - will also be part of this new observation.

 "Project Dorothy vividly demonstrates just how far SETI has come in the past fifty years," said the SETI Institute's Douglas Vakoch, who is a member of Project Dorothy's Working Group. "Astronomers can now do SETI research at observatories from South Africa to the Netherlands, from Argentina to India, from Japan to Italy, as well as from the longstanding American projects at the SETI Institute, the University of California at Berkeley, and Harvard University. The lessons learned through Project Dorothy provide critical preparation for the day we finally detect a signal from another civilization."

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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