Is there really intelligent life outside the Earth?
Today, with advances in telecommunications and remote-sensing technologies scientists expanded the search for extraterrestrial intelligence to a new realm wit with detectors adjusted to infrared light at the University of California’s Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton near San Jose. The new device called the Near-Infrared Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (NIROSETI), an instrument that can detect infrared pulses transmitted across interstellar distances.
Shelley Wright heads the team that built the NIROSETI instrument. She is an assistant professor of physics at UCSD,
“Optical SETI looks for brief laser pulses that may be from extraterrestrial intelligence,” Wright said during her interview with the UCSD Guardian.
She explained the premise underlying optical SETI, infrared light serves as a more effective means of interstellar communication than visible light because of its capability to penetrate through interstellar gas and dust. It requires less energy to transmit the same amount of information, thus the transmission of infrared pulses is more efficient.
The notion of using the laser as a means of interstellar communication dates back to the UC Berkeley scientist, Charles Townes, who suggested the idea in a paper published in 1961.
“We had to wait until technology was good enough to build the receivers. We’re trying to build instruments that can detect such a signal if extraterrestrial intelligence was communicating to us,” Wright noted.
The new technology Wright referred to can detect optical or infrared signals at a speed of one billionth of a second.
Wright also commented on the capability of the NIROSETI’s receivers, the long terms goals of the NIROSETI team is to run the instrument for several years and look at thousands of stars in order to get a signal.
The NIROSETI team has been together for over a decade and was part of the main team that worked on the optical SETI instrument at Lick Observatory. Wright helped develop the NIROSETI while at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics.
The team comprises of Shelley Wright, Dan Wertheimer, Jerome Maire, Patrick Dorval, Frank Drake, Remington Stone, Richard Treffers and Geoffrey Marcy.
Darren Charrier, told the Guardian that the NIROSETI reflects the recent growth of the privatized space industry that as the new privatized space industry is emerging, I think it will bring with it a wave of interest in what is out there.
Charrier is a freshman aerospace engineer in Sixth College and serves as the business manager and national expansion manager of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space at UCSD.
Besides, NIROSETI could discover new data about the physical universe.