Washington, June 5 : A team of astronomers is hoping to use new technology to search for possible extraterrestrial (ET) intelligence in our galaxy.
The team comprises of Richard Conn Henry, a professor in the Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins University, and Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute and Steven Kilston of the Henry Foundation Inc. in the US.
They plan to search a swath of the sky known as the ecliptic plane by using the Allen Telescope Array (ATA), operated as a partnership between the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, and the Radio Astronomy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.
Comprising hundreds of specially produced small dishes that marry modern, miniaturized electronics and innovative technologies with computer processing, the ATA provides researchers with the capability to search for possible signals from technologically advanced civilizations elsewhere in our galaxy.
Employing this new equipment in a unique, targeted search for possible civilizations enhances the chances of finding one.
According to the researchers, the critical place to look is in the ecliptic, a great circle around the sky that represents the plane of Earth's orbit.
This ecliptic band comprises only about 3 percent of the sky.
The sun, as viewed from Earth, appears annually to pass along this circle. Any civilization that lies within a fraction of a degree of the ecliptic could annually detect Earth passing in front of the sun. Knowing where to look tremendously reduces the amount of radio telescope time we will need to conduct the search," said Henry.
Most of the 100 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy are located in the galactic plane, forming another great circle around the sky. The two great circles intersect near Taurus and Sagittarius, two constellations opposite each other in the Earth's sky - areas where the search will initially concentrate.
According to Kilston, "The crucial implication is that this targeted search in a favored part of the sky - the ecliptic stripe, if you will - may provide us with significantly better prospects for detecting extraterrestrials than has any previous search effort."