After years of listening, we've heard not a single peep out of any aliens, say boffins. You think you can do better? OK, here's 1PB of signals

Massive data dump, code release for E.T. hunters

After years of listening to the cosmos, scientists have failed to pick up any sign of alien civilizations. So, the experts have dumped online a petabyte of signals picked up from the Breakthrough Listen project so nerds like you and me can rifle through the readings and have a crack at finding E.T.

A staggering $100m (~£79,6m) went into funding Breakthrough Listen, a project launched in 2016 to detect extraterrestrial communications whizzing across space. It was hoped the astro-geeks would find some confirmation that there are other forms of intelligent life out there.

Three years in, and the eggheads haven’t quite found what they’re looking for, but they have amassed a petabyte of radio and optical data taken from the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, USA, and the Parkes Telescope in Australia.

They've now shared that data online alongside two research papers and code in the hope that the public may be able to use it all and find something useful. “We scoured thousands of hours of observations of nearby stars, across billions of frequency channels,” said Danny Price, a research fellow working on the Breakthrough Listen project at the University of California, Berkeley, on Tuesday.

“We found no evidence of artificial signals from beyond Earth, but this doesn't mean there isn't intelligent life out there: we may just not have looked in the right place yet, or peered deep enough to detect faint signals.”


AI beats astroboffins at sniffing out fast radio bursts amid the universe's clutter


The papers describe the observations of 1,327 nearby stars, fast radio bursts, and pulsar searches. It’s the “most comprehensive and sensitive radio search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) in history,” the team boasted.

Boffins are searching for strange, powerful radio signals that can’t be easily explained. They reject signals emitted by other radio telescopes, or if the source appears to move in the sky. Some of the code released helps filter noise from the raw data, and performs Doppler drift searches, a technique that determines if a signal comes from a fixed point in space.

“We invite the public to read the two papers accompanying the data release and the scientific analysis, and for those with technical skills, to download some of the datasets, to explore them, and to perform their own analyses,” the researchers said.

Although there isn’t much to see here, the Breakthrough Listen project is soldiering on. It hopes to study one million nearby stars, 100 nearby galaxies, and the entire galactic plane in radio and optical wavelengths. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • It's the flu season – FluBot, that is: Surge of info-stealing Android malware detected

    And a bunch of bank-account-raiding trojans also identified

    FluBot, a family of Android malware, is circulating again via SMS messaging, according to authorities in Finland.

    The Nordic country's National Cyber Security Center (NCSC-FI) lately warned that scam messages written in Finnish are being sent in the hope that recipients will click the included link to a website that requests permission to install an application that's malicious.

    "The messages are written in Finnish," the NCSC-FI explained. "They are written without Scandinavian letters (å, ä and ö) and include, for example, the characters +, /, &, % and @ in illogical places in the text to make it more difficult for telecommunications operators to filter the messages. The theme of the text may be that the recipient has received a voicemail message or a message from their mobile operator."

    Continue reading
  • AsmREPL: Wing your way through x86-64 assembly language

    Assemblers unite

    Ruby developer and internet japester Aaron Patterson has published a REPL for 64-bit x86 assembly language, enabling interactive coding in the lowest-level language of all.

    REPL stands for "read-evaluate-print loop", and REPLs were first seen in Lisp development environments such as Lisp Machines. They allow incremental development: programmers can write code on the fly, entering expressions or blocks of code, having them evaluated – executed – immediately, and the results printed out. This was viable because of the way Lisp blurred the lines between interpreted and compiled languages; these days, they're a standard feature of most scripting languages.

    Patterson has previously offered ground-breaking developer productivity enhancements such as an analogue terminal bell and performance-enhancing firmware for the Stack Overflow keyboard. This only has Ctrl, C, and V keys for extra-easy copy-pasting, but Patterson's firmware removes the tedious need to hold control.

    Continue reading
  • Microsoft adds Buy Now, Pay Later financing option to Edge – and everyone hates it

    There's always Use Another Browser

    As the festive season approaches, Microsoft has decided to add "Buy Now, Pay Later" financing options to its Edge browser in the US.

    The feature turned up in recent weeks, first in beta and canary before it was made available "by default" to all users of Microsoft Edge version 96.

    The Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) option pops up at the browser level (rather than on checkout at an ecommerce site) and permits users to split any purchase between $35 and $1,000 made via Edge into four instalments spread over six weeks.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021