This image shows the mirrors on one of the four 12-meter optical reflectors of the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS), to be used for scanning the skies for laser communication beacons from extraterrestrial civilizations.
(Image Sources: Wikipedia.org, By Wars - The image was personally taken by me, Wars, on the 3rd of September 2007, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2680980)
By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower
In the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), large radio telescopes, such as the telescopes at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, have been used for decades in the search for radio signals coming from extraterrestrial civilizations. Now, there is a plan to begin looking for possible laser communication beacons originating with extraterrestrial civilizations.
This is not the first time such laser beacons have been searched for. However, a great new tool will now help to greatly advance this search.
The Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS), composed of four
12-meter optical reflector telescopes at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Amado, Arizona, will now be used to advance the search for, what are called, 'pulsed optical beacons.' This telescope array is considered particularly useful for this type of research, even though VERITAS was originally designed to study gamma rays coming from Outer Space.
Pulsed optical beacons are strong laser-like pulses of light that are very short in duration (usually only a few nano-seconds per pulse). It is speculated that advanced civilizations may use such optical beacons for long-distance communication instead of radio waves. Such optical communication could provide advanced civilizations with greater band-width for data, as well as be less prone to signal interference and degradation.
NASA has already successfully used laser communication to transit high-definition images from the Moon to the Earth.
It is likely that artificial optical pulses would be brighter than most stars in the same star-field, which would be one way of confirming their artificial nature. And, the use of VERITAS' four telescopes would help to eliminate false positive pulse detections
The SETI Institute has already been involved in an optical communication search using the 40-inch Nickel Telescope in Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton, California. Adding VERITAS to this project will greatly extend this search. The huge mirror area of the four VERITAS telescopes will provide the ability to receive very faint light signals.
This new search is part of the Breakthough Listen project, which is a part of Breakthrough Initiatives founded in 2015 by entrepreneur Yuri Milner. Based at the Berkeley SETI Research Center in the Astronomy Department of the University of California, Berkeley, it is a $100 million project expected to last at least 10 years.
Internet Links to Additional Information ---
Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS):
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VERITAS
Breakthrough Listen: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakthrough_Listen
Breakthrough Initiatives: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakthrough_Initiatives
Related Blog Posts ---
"Nano-Space Probes to Star Alpha Centauri by Laser-Sail ?" 2017 Dec. 7.
"Lasers in Space ?" 2017 Nov. 13.
Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
Monday, 2019 October 7.
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Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
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