Project Breakthrough Listen, aimed at findingextraterrestrial life, expands its capabilities with the announcement of the inclusion in the program of using the network of MeerKAT radio telescopes located in the Northern Cape Province of the Republic of South Africa. With this installation and other telescopes around the world, scientists from the Breakthrough Listen project are going to examine 1 million stars for signs of signals from alien civilizations.
Recall Breakthrough Listen initiatedbillionaire Yuri Milner and the departed Stephen Hawking, who allocated $ 100 million to the search program for extraterrestrial life, and other projects.
Connecting the MeerKAT radio telescope network tothe Green-Bank radio telescopes (owned by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and located in West Virginia) and the radio telescopes of the Australian Parkes Observatory significantly expand search capabilities, the project organizers say.
“Joining forces with MeerKAT greatly enhances Breakthrough Listen. Now this is a truly global project, ”commented one of the project’s founders, Yuri Milner.
Official opening of the MeerKAT radio telescope networktook place this July. The network consists of 64 radio plates, each with a diameter of 13.5 meters. The signals received by each of the plates are combined into a single source, which significantly increases the sensitivity, resolution, and viewing angle, members of the Breakthrough Listen project say.
The MeerKAT radio telescope network was created with the aim ofconducting astrophysical studies, as well as a harbinger of a more ambitious project - Square Kilometer Array (SKA), whose construction will be completed in about 2024. As part of this project, it is planned to combine several dozens of radio telescopes into a single and largest radio interferometer in the world, whose collecting area should significantly exceed 1 square kilometer. More than 20 countries participate in the project.
According to the portal Space.com, MeerKAT radio telescopes will not have to postpone their basic scientific work in connection with new tasks in finding signs of extraterrestrial life. The Breakthrough Listen team installed a small supercomputer in the MeerKAT control center that will allow the installation to search for extraterrestrial life in the background, almost without stopping.
"With this system we will be able to send into spaceimmediately multiple rays and get highly detailed data from multiple objects simultaneously. It complements and simultaneously expands our capabilities in working with other telescopes. The search for extraterrestrial techno signal will be made much faster and more accurate than ever before, ”commented Breakthrough Listen curator Andrew Simion.
This is a huge amount of incomingdata. The Listen system installed in the MeerKAT control center has an input transfer rate of 4 terabits per second, which is about 40,000 times higher than the bandwidth of an average home Internet connection, members of the Breakthrough Listen team say.
“This development is a big step insearching for extraterrestrial life. The use of such a large network of ultra-sensitive telescopes distributed over a vast area, like MeerKAT, offers many advantages over conventional large single plates, ”comments another project curator Michael Garrett.
"The Breakthrough Listen - MeerKAT joint project can be a very powerful new tool for finding extraterrestrial life and bring this program to a new level," the researcher adds.
According to the original plan, the MeerKAT network shouldwas composed of 20 radio plates. The project was called Karoo Array Telescope (KAT). However, later the South African government increased funding for the project, which made it possible to build a total of 64 radio telescopes. Following the expansion of the project was followed by a name change. A network of radio telescopes called MeerKAT. The word "meer" with Afrikaans means "more." In addition, MeerKAT is fully consonant with the English word "meerkat", which is translated as meerkat. These animals from the mongoose family are very common in South Africa and are distinguished by keen observation.
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