The Largest Radio Telescope Ever Built Will Search for Alien Life

Radio astronomers Philip Diamond and Shari Breen talk about the ground-breaking Square Kilometer Array on Motherboard’s Space Show.

The world’s largest radio telescope, known as the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), is currently taking shape in remote areas of South Africa and Australia. Scheduled to be completed in the late 2020s, this sprawling collection of antennae and dishes will use its unprecedented sensitivity to peer deeper into the past than ever before and scan the universe for signs of extraterrestrial life.

“The SKA will be so sensitive that we'll be able to detect an airport radar on a planet that is tens of light years away,” said Shari Breen, head of science operations for the observatory, in a new episode of Motherboard’s Space Show.  

“It’s a time machine, producing a movie of, effectively, the dawn of the universe up until now,” added Philip Diamond, SKA director-general. “We'll be able to go back there and then watch the universe evolve.”

A collaboration between 16 nations, the SKA has been in the works since the 1990s and will be built in phases throughout the next decade. As a result, astronomers will be able to use each iteration of the array as it evolves into the biggest radio observatory ever built. With this vast collecting area that stretches across thousands of miles, the array will shed new light on a host of astronomical mysteries, including whether we are alone in the universe.

“To search for intelligent life, we’ll look for signals from extraterrestrial technology,” Breen said. “The sensitivity of the SKA means that we can increase the volume of space where we can search for signals and other activity. We'll be searching for signatures of amino acids, which are the building blocks of life, which show radio emission at very specific frequencies so we can identify it quite readily.” 

“Whenever any new facility is built, it’s going to discover new things,” concluded Diamond. “The universe will be our oyster with the SKA.”


Space, ALIENS, worldnews, Space Show

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