The SETI League's EME beacon received its first shakedown this month, providing scientists at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico with a weak, well calibrated test signal for use in conjunction with the Project Phoenix targeted search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Project Phoenix scientists had formerly used a microwave transmitter aboard the Pioneer 10 spacecraft for this purpose. Twenty nine after its launch, Pioneer 10 is now outside our solar system, seven billion miles from Earth, its eight-watt beacon too weak to be received even by Arecibo, the world's largest radio telescope.
"Well, we DID see [The SETI League's moonbounce beacon]," emailed astronomer Seth Shostak from Arecibo during the March 9th tests. "It took a while, and it was a lot weaker than I had anticipated, but it was definitely there. And easily found by the system. It was drifting slowly to lower frequencies." That frequency drift is the Doppler shift caused by the motion of the Moon with respect to the Earth, and is a key feature by which SETI scientists differentiate between extra-terrestrial signals and terrestrial interference.
The SETI League's more than 1200 members in 60 countries have collectively assembled over 100 small radio telescopes, constructed by individual members out of discarded satellite TV dish antennas, along with sensitive microwave receivers and powerful home computers. Traditionally, radio telescopes are used to study the structure of the universe, by analyzing microwave radiation emitted by natural astrophysical phenomena. In the SETI application, it is artificial radiation from other technological civilizations that the telescopes seek to identify. In either case, test signals such as the one now being provided by the moonbounce beacon enable radio astronomers to confirm the proper operation of their equipment.
SETI scientists seek to determine through microwave and optical measurements whether humankind is alone in the universe. Since Congress terminated NASA's SETI funding in 1993, The SETI League and other scientific groups have been attempting to privatize the research. Experimenters interested in participating in the search for intelligent alien life, or citizens wishing to help support it, should email to join_at_setileague_dot_org, check the SETI League Web site at http://www.setileague.org/, send a fax to +1 (201) 641-1771, or contact The SETI League, Inc. membership hotline at +1 (800) TAU-SETI. Be sure to provide us with a postal address to which we will mail further information. The SETI League, Inc. is a membership-supported, non-profit [501(c)(3)], educational and scientific corporation dedicated to the electromagnetic Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.
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this page last updated 30 November 2002
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