A new type of search for Extra Terrestrials has begun at SETI, using a completely new search method known as PANOSETI.
SETI have completed the construction of a 20 billion channel SERENDIP SETI spectrometer. This will be used in conjunction with the 500 meter diameter FAST telescope in China to begin a three year SETI sky survey at FAST.
Working in collaboration with Harvard, Caltech, and the University of California San Diego, SETI are developing a new type of observatory, called PANOSETI.
This new type of observatory can search the whole sky in all directions simultaneously, analyzing visible and infrared pulses of light that may be coming from an extraterrestrial civilization or new astrophysical phenomena.
A prototype has proven the concept works to capture and analyze light signals in the 350 – 1600 nm range and was built at Lick Observatory.
Now plans are in place to build two large scale domes, each one equipped with 45 telescopes pointing in different directions to capture all of the visible sky.
Over time additional PANOSETI telescopes can be rolled out all over the world, and for the first time in human history, we would be scanning the entire sky in all directions for signs of extraterrestrial life.
The idea is similar to a Dyson Sphere, but rather than building an enormous dome around the sun to harness all of its energy, the concept is to build enough telescopes around the Earth to look out in all directions.
PANOSETI stands for Pulsed All-sky Near-infrared Optical SETI and essentially means we are creating a panoramic telescope.
Rather than looking in a specific direction and zeroing in with laser like focus, this new telescope captures as much of the spectrum as it can in all directions.
“The goal is to basically look for very brief, but powerful, signals from an advanced civilization. Because they are so brief, and likely to be rare, we plan to check large areas of the sky for a long period of time,” said UC Berkeley’s Dan Werthimer.
Dan is chief scientist at the Berkeley SETI Research Center. “This is the first wide-field survey for sub-second phenomena.”
PANOSETI’s geodesic telescope array, allows it to image one-third of the sky every night in search of transient astronomical flashes that last as short as nanoseconds, or a billionth of a second.
These new observatories would be built in pairs to provide a stereo view of the sky, allowing for confirmation of signals and providing the means to filter out local signals and speed up the search.
To date SETI‘s main focus has been on observing radio signals and has leveraged citizen scientists to help analyze large volumes of data from radio telescopes like the recently damaged Arecibo Observatory.
Now with PANOSETI a new age of exploration begins where very short bursts of light can be observed coming from any direction, vastly increasing our chances of discovering new phenomena and potentially, alien civilizations.