Photograph: T. Pyle/JPL-CALTECH/NASA
By Ian Sample
Fears that a major program to contact alien life could spell disaster for planet Earth were dismissed as “paranoid” on Thursday by scientists who hope to beam messages to distant worlds from powerful radio telescopes.
Researchers at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Seti) Institute in California want to broadcast greetings to potentially habitable planets in the hope of receiving a reply, but the proposal has met with serious objections from critics, including the cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who claim that yelling into space is reckless.
Astronomers have listened for signals from alien civilisations since 1960, when the Cornell University astronomer Frank Drake co-opted the national observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia, to launch Project Ozma. In more than 50 years since, no convincing signals have been picked up.
Faced with half a century of silence, Seti astronomers have decided it is the time to change tack. They propose to use radio telescopes, such as the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico, to beam repeated signals at nearby planets selected for their odds of harbouring life. They claim the approach is more promising than earlier attempts to gain alien attention, such as the plaques attached to Pioneer probes launched in 1972 and 1973 that depicted a naked couple waving hello.
Read the full article by clicking the name of the source located below.