SETI resumes search for alien life

The team at SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) took what turned out to be an extended break, seven months, in their search for alien life, but now the team is back to pointing their telescopes to the stars.

The institute’s Allen Telescope Array came back online on Monday thanks to a deal brokered between SETI and the U.S. Air Force. The telescopes will once again be listening full-time to the radio waves emitted from neighboring stars in an effort to find signals alien in origin.

The timing of SETI’s return couldn’t be more perfect – just a few days ago, NASA announced the discovery of an Earth-like planet, Kepler 22-b, orbiting within the habitable zone of a star similar in mass to our own sun. Unsurprisingly, Kepler 22-b and other recently discovered exoplanets are the focus of SETI’s ATA telescopes.

“This is a superb opportunity for SETI observations,” said Jill Tarter, the Director of the Center for SETI Research, in a statement issued on Monday. “For the first time, we can point our telescopes at stars, and know that those stars actually host planetary systems – including at least one that begins to approximate an Earth analog in the habitable zone around its host star. That’s the type of world that might be home to a civilization capable of building radio transmitters.”

SETI isn’t just focusing on the recently discovered exoplanets, however.

“In SETI, as with all research, preconceived notions such as habitable zones could be barriers to discovery,” Tarter explained. “So, with sufficient future funding from our donors, it’s our intention to examine all of the planetary systems found by Kepler.”

[Image credit: Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times]