Volunteers have spent the past two decades helping scientists to search for alien civilisations.
Now this ambitious crowdsourced effort has ended – but we’re still no closer to finding extraterrestrial life.
For 21 years, the University of California, Berkeley, has run a project called [email protected] which allowed ordinary people to use their computer’s processing power to help scan deep space in search of aliens.
But this project has now been closed down without managing to answer the question of the universe is teeming with life or depressingly barren.
On Twitter, UC Berkeley’s SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) department wrote: ‘Thanks to the many volunteers who have helped crunch data for [email protected] in the last two decades.
‘On March 31, the project will stop sending out new work to users, but this is not the end of public engagement in SETI research.
Life forms, whether intelligent or not, can produce detectable indicators such as large amounts of oxygen, smaller amounts of methane, and a variety of other chemicals, the experts said.
MORE: Extraterrestrial life is out there and SETI is busy looking for it
So in addition, scientists are also developing computer models to simulate extraterrestrial environments that can help support future searches for habitable planets and life beyond the solar system.
Victoria Meadows, principal investigator for Nasa’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory at the University of Washington, which studies to detect exoplanetary habitability, said: ‘Upcoming telescopes in space and on the ground will have the capability to observe the atmospheres of Earth-sized planets orbiting nearby cool stars, so it’s important to understand how best to recognise signs of habitability and life on these planets.
‘These computer models will help us determine whether an observed planet is more or less likely to support life.’
SETI’s Breakthrough Listen Initiative, which launched in 2015 to ‘listen’ for signals of alien life, released nearly two petabytes of data from the most comprehensive survey yet of radio emissions from the plane of the Milky Way galaxy and the region around its central black hole.
The organisation is now inviting the public to search the data, gathered from various telescopes around the world, and look for signals from intelligent civilisations.
MORE: Confirmation of alien life ‘now seems inevitable’ claims researcher
Yuri Milner, an entrepreneur and founder of the Breakthrough initiative, said: ‘For the whole of human history, we had a limited amount of data to search for life beyond Earth.
‘So, all we could do was speculate.
‘Now, as we are getting a lot of data, we can do real science and, with making this data available to general public, so can anyone who wants to know the answer to this deep question.’
The initiatives and strategies in expanding the search for extraterrestrial life were presented at the the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Seattle.
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