When ET calls, the phone can be picked up at Offaly.
It is “virtually certain” that life beyond Earth will be discovered within a decade, and an Irish telescope at Birr Castle, County Offaly, could be the first to detect a signal from a extraterrestrial intelligence.
“Two years ago we thought we had received our first signal, it was from the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia,” said Professor Pete Worden.
“We are now pretty sure it was (caused by) interference, but it’s just as likely the next one will come from iLOFAR (in Birr).”
Professor Worden, former director of NASA’s Ames Research Center, astrophysicist at the University of Arizona and retired US Air Force general, will present a sold-out lecture tonight at the Dunsink Observatory in Dublin for Space Week 2022.
Birr’s iLOFAR telescope is run by a consortium of astrophysicists in Ireland and is part of a European network of similar telescopes.
It detects low frequency radio waves coming from space. These provide clues to the Big Cang event, space weather, and aid the Global Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).
If ET decided to send a signal to Earth using low-frequency radio waves, Prof Worden said, speaking ahead of tonight’s conference, there would be a good chance the ‘first contact’ signal would be picked up at Birr.
Prof Worden (73) has had a long and distinguished scientific and military career and remains ‘incredibly excited’ about scientists discovering extraterrestrial life somewhere in his lifetime.
“It’s virtually certain that we’re going to find life, both in our solar system – we have a number of places we’re looking for – and a life-bearing planet around one of the nearby stars, from here a decade,” Professor Moten said.
After I Stopped Pinching Myself, I’ll Do What All Scientists Do When They Think They’ve Detected Something
He’s also chairman of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation whose prizes — at $3 million, the richest in science — are awarded for breakthroughs in math, physics and the life sciences.
It was made possible thanks to a donation of 100 million dollars (100 million euros) over 10 years from Yuri Milner, a wealthy Israeli entrepreneur and former physicist.
Evan Keane, professor of radio astronomy at Trinity College Dublin, has secured funding from the Initiative to use the iLOFAR telescope at Birr to search for possible ET radio signals.
He is one of the few astronomers in Ireland working on SETI.
According to Professor Keane, it is possible that Birr will receive the first historic signal from extraterrestrial intelligence if extraterrestrials decide to communicate in space using radio frequencies below 250 megahertz.
“After I stopped pinching myself, I would do what all scientists do when they think they’ve detected something,” Professor Keane said.
“I would do my best to disprove it, ruling out all the different types of possible dark and dim signals,” Professor Keane said.
Only after these have been ruled out will it be possible to be sure that the signal was real.
Professor Pete Worden’s talk takes place tonight at Dunsink Observatory in Castleknock, Dublin.