British astronomers have set up an experts’ network to promote the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, the Royal Astronomical Society said on Friday.
The starter group comprises academics from 11 British institutions, who will pore over data from radio telescopes and swap ideas such as how to detect any signals from another civilisation and then interpret them, it said.
Named the UK SETI Research Network — UKSRN — the organisation has the Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees, previously president of the Royal Society, Britain’s de-facto academy of sciences, as its patron.
UKSRN presented its work at the Royal Astronomical Society’s annual conference in Edinburgh on Friday, a press release said.
Astronomers at the SETI Institute in the United States have been looking for signs of intelligent life beyond our Solar System since 1984.
No signal has been found, but interest in the quest remains strong, bolstered by the detection of planets orbiting distant stars and the falling cost of monitoring background noise from deep space.
Britain has recently commissioned seven radio telescopes for SETI projects, called e-MERLIN, at Jodrell Bank Observatory, near Manchester.
Previously, “the equipment required to sift through data was expensive and unusual, but our modern telescopes are potentially capable of conducting these types of observations as a matter of course,” said Tim O’Brien of Jodrell Bank.