Scientists Hunt for Alien Life Near the Heart of Milky Way

60 million stars were surveyed, but not even one alien decided to say 'Hello.' Rude.
Derya Ozdemir
A view of the center of our Milky Way galaxyNASA/SOFIA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/Herschel

Breakthrough Listen, a 10-year effort created six years ago by Israeli-Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and the late physicist Stephen Hawking, has published preliminary findings of a SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) survey in which the team searched for radio signals in our galaxy, Universe Today reports.

This is far from being the first the Breakthrough Listen project: The investigative team, based at the SETI Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, has made several attempts to find evidence of alien civilizations through radio astronomy. The project's premise is straightforward: if aliens exist, they would most likely emit radio signals, either deliberately or accidentally.

The latest study

The team focused its attention on the center of our galaxy and collected approximately 600 hours of radio observations using the Green Bank Radio Telescope in West Virginia and the CSIRO's Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia, according to the study which will be published in the Astronomical Journal.

They claim that this was "the most sensitive and deepest targeted SETI” survey ever done of the galactic center. This line of sight, which stretches from Earth to the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way, is difficult to navigate: Although gazing in this direction offers the largest number of potentially habitable systems due to the increasing abundance of stars, the region also has high radiation thanks to the gamma rays, exploding supernovae, and extremely hot clouds of gas, so this makes things complicated.

In total, the scientists estimate that they surveyed around 60 million stars at the heart of our galaxy. The team swept for frequencies between 0.7 and 93 GHz, and the results of the study include frequencies between 1 and 8 GHz, at intervals of 7 hours and 11.2 hours. 

'No alarms and no surprises'

Within these parameters, no repeating radio bursts consistent with extraterrestrial intelligence were detected, much like another study by the same team in 2019. The team had analyzed 1,372 nearby stars, but their attempt had been futile. Science is divided on whether all this is a good thing: Perhaps, finding an alien civilization would be humanity's doom -- or, it could be theirs. Could it be that we have heard from aliens but just didn't know it? Ideally, uncovering evidence that our planet is not the only one where intelligent life has arisen could lead us to a future where we live in harmony with other civilizations, but of course, this is all speculation.

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We have only just turned our eyes to the deep space. As our instruments improve and scientists find more refined methods, our endeavors of looking deep into space will see tremendous advancements, and one day, searching for needles in the cosmic haystack may stop being such a laborious endeavor.