by Hazel Anna Rogers for the Carl Kruse Blog
It was as if it was meant to be.
At the end of 2021, when most of us were just wishing we might be glimpsing the rear end of the Covid-19 pandemic, astronomers in Western Australia looking earnestly at the night sky were greeted by inexplicable signals emitted from deep within the Milky Way. In the last few months, more perplexingly powerful signals were detected coming from a celestial body at the heart of our solar system. As of today, the origins of these signals remain unclear, but hypotheses surrounding them are growing hard and fast.
Signals from space can normally be defined within specified parameters. Astronomers use radio waves to detect various objects and celestial phenomena because the wavelength of radio is the longest of the electromagnetic spectrum. By using radio telescopes, astronomers can observe and study planets, galaxies, stars, and many other phenomena to be found in space. Due to the fact that radio waves are not affected by variations in light and precipitation, astronomers can use radio at all points of the day and throughout the seasons to discover more about the structures and motion of planets, comets, and more.
What has brought the attention of astronomers worldwide to these recent unexplained signals is how unique they appear to be at surface level, leading some to question whether it might be possible that we have unearthed populations or events that had been previously overlooked. This new SETI talk will discuss the possibility that these signals might indicate extra-terrestrial activity and establish what we can expect to find out about these celestial events within the next decade or so, during which the transcontinental Square Kilometer Array (SKA) will be established. SKA will be the largest radio telescope ever built, and astronomers are hoping that its so-called ‘first light’ (the first astronomical image to be produced by the first use of a new instrument/telescope) will occur in 2027. Could this ‘first light’ shed some light on these mysterious radio signals?
The signals detected in the latter part of 2021 and into the new year were discovered by two Western Australian astronomy facilities: the Murchison Widefield Array telescope and the ASKAP radio telescope, both of which are situated at the Murchison Radio-Astronomy Observatory (MRO). How brilliant, then, that the two guest speakers at this SETI talk are working, or have worked, at these specific astronomy research facilities! The first speaker is Dr. Natasha Hurley-Walker, who moved to Australia after completing her Radio Astronomy PhD at the University of Cambridge and began promoting the creation of the Murchison Widefield Array, which is now the predecessor to the aforementioned Square Kilometer Array. Thanks to her inimitably vital work for science, gender, and outreach, Hurley-Walker has been awarded the titles of WA Tall Poppies Scientist of the Year (2017) and an ABC Top 5 Scientist (2018). The second speaker is Tara Murphy, professor of Astrophysics working at the University of Sydney in the School of Physics. She is also a CI of the ASKAP Variables and Slow Transients project and has received over $5 million of grant funding to support her own research, as well as having co-authored over 150 scientific publications. Franck Marchis, astronomer and planetary scientist known for his discovery of many notable asteroids, will moderate this discussion. Marchis is also a senior astronomer at the SETI institute.
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Hazel earlier summarized two of the SETI Talks that were sponsored by the Carl Kruse Blog. One on UAP Research the other on Artificial Intelligence. The blog often covers all things SETI. Explore articles with the search function.
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