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Space Science

No, SETI Has Not Detected Alien Signals From Space 160

The Bad Astronomer writes "Rumors are going around that SETI astronomers have detected possible alien signals from space. Bottom line: signals were detected when the Green Bank Telescope was pointed at target planets discovered by Kepler, but the signals are almost certainly interference from man-made satellites orbiting the Earth. This happens pretty often, so we need to be aware that these kinds of false positives pop up."
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No, SETI Has Not Detected Alien Signals From Space

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  • Call me an idiot ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 06, 2012 @03:58PM (#38613496)

    If you’re pointed at an alien transmitter, then moving the telescope will point you in a different direction, and the signal should go away. On the other hand, strong satellite signals can be detected by radio telescopes even when they point in another direction; the signal can leak into the telescopes even when you’re pointed well away.

    If you move a thousand miles and the source is a thousand light years away, the angular deviation is almost precisely zero.

    But if you move a thousand miles and the source is ten miles away, you're basically moving out of the source's way.

    So wouldn't you expect the signal to go away for a man-made satellite, and stay for an alien signal? That's the precise opposite of what they're saying.

    And if telescopes in any location, pointing to some specific direction, pick up the same satellite, surely they also pick it up when pointing to other stars? So this satellite that magically interferes with two different telescopes must be a real problem for those telescopes.

    Something smells fishy to me.

  • Really bad article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mbone ( 558574 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @04:06PM (#38613622)

    Yeah, I had to really dig through the Berkeley web site [] to figure out what they were actually claiming. It's no wonder people are confused.

    It's as if I took pictures of some distant airplanes and posted a blog about taking pictures of UFOs, highlighting my pictures, and talked about how these pictures had all the confirming points I was looking for in a UFO picture, with a note at the bottom saying that, as I didn't have any actual UFO pictures, I substituted these.

    It would be hard to claim sympathy if I was then ridiculed, which I suspect they will be.

  • Get Seth (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Friday January 06, 2012 @04:29PM (#38613976) Homepage Journal

    to do an interview on slashdot.

    Also, get their podcast. It's lame puns and excellent science []

  • A sense of scale (Score:5, Interesting)

    by IWantMoreSpamPlease ( 571972 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @04:55PM (#38614304) Homepage Journal
    I have photographed the Green Bank Radiotelescope a few times, that place is *massive*, pictures don't do it justice, I mean it's really friggin' big. Best I can show is this pic I took of the area [] I love it made the news (the GBR, not my pics) today
  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:56PM (#38616650)

    A few problems with your ideas:
    1) Maybe intelligent, star-faring species don't want to disturb others. After all, if your intention is to observe, you don't want your presence to be known or else your observations won't be useful. When we observe the behavior of, say, dolphins when they're mating, we don't go down there and swim around with them and annoy them as they're having their orgies. We watch with cameras, undetected, so we can see what their normal, natural behavior is, not what their behavior is when some strange alien land-dwelling creature is attempting to swim with them.

    1b) Highly advanced races might not have any interest in communicating directly with us, and prefer to simply observe, the same we observe ants rather than attempting to communicate with them. They might have a Prime Directive and know from past experience that contacting pre-spaceflight species doesn't go over very well. Such races might also prevent other races (which disagree with their PD) from contacting those within their sphere of influence. We might be within a United Federation of Planets quadrant where contact with primitive species is strictly prohibited, rather than a Ferengi-controlled quadrant where the opposite is true (primitive species are pushed to use high technology ASAP so they can become consumers). Too bad since our species (esp. Americans) are very Ferengi-like.

    1c) There might already be a big "Hi there!" sign, just sitting on the far side of the Moon waiting for us to uncover it, or perhaps on Pluto. But to get there, we have to have sufficient development to go find it; we're not that developed yet, and it's questionable whether we ever will be. After all, we got bored after we took a couple short trips to the moon and hit some golf balls, so we never went back as we found it much more worthwhile to engage in wars and fight each other over one-click patents.

    2) Intelligent races that actually survive long enough to achieve starflight and send out interplanetary probes might be very rare; maybe most of them destroy themselves shortly after they invent nuclear weapons.

"Mach was the greatest intellectual fraud in the last ten years." "What about X?" "I said `intellectual'." ;login, 9/1990