VERITAS collaboration searches for optical technosignatures

In 2015, Yuri Milner and his organization, Breakthrough Initiatives, launched Breakthrough Listen, the largest Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project. This initiative aims to search for potential evidence of technological activity, known as “technosignatures,” using powerful radio telescopes and advanced analytics. The ten-year project focuses on surveying one million nearby stars, the center of our galaxy, the galactic plane, and the 100 galaxies closest to the Milky Way.

In 2018, Breakthrough Listen partnered with the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS) Collaboration. This collaboration involved researchers from various institutions, including the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and several universities and research institutes. Their joint effort focused on searching for “optical technosignatures” using gamma-ray telescopes.

The recent paper titled “A VERITAS/Breakthrough Listen Search for Optical Technosignatures” describes the findings of the first year of their search (2019-2020). The study focused on nanosecond optical pulses detectable over interstellar distances, using the VERITAS array, which consists of four 12-meter Cherenkov optical reflectors.

The collaboration utilized the Breakthrough Listen target catalog to select suitable targets for observation. They observed 136 targets for a total of 30 hours, ranking them based on proximity, brightness, and other factors. Additionally, they analyzed archival data going back to 2012, examining 249 observations of 140 targets.

Unfortunately, the study did not find evidence of any nanosecond optical pulses from the observed targets. However, it served as a proof-of-concept and provided valuable insights for future searches. The research established limits on the number of stars potentially hosting transmitting civilizations, narrowing down the search parameters for future investigations.

The study’s implications extend beyond the search for technosignatures, potentially benefiting existing and planned gamma-ray observatories. This includes the Panoramic All-sky All-time Near InfraRed and Optical Technosignature Finder (PANOSETI), which will conduct coordinated observations with the VERITAS Observatory. The intersection of these fields offers new opportunities for exploration and collaboration.

Source: Universe Today

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