Currently, researchers came into a conclusion that there are “no other signs of life or aliens” across the universe based on the most comprehensive and sensitive search for aliens to date — at least not yet. Though our quest to discover extraterrestrial life may have fallen off short, the idea of being the “only life form” in the universe is actually a good thing.
In 2015, Israeli-Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and the late physicist Stephen Hawking launched Breakthrough Initiatives, a non-profit organization dedicated to the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI). A crucial part of their efforts to find evidence of intelligent life is Breakthrough Listen, a $100 million program that is currently searching the universe across 100 nearby galaxies.
Breakthrough Listen is an astronomical program that looks for signs of aliens in our local Universe — within about 160 light-years from Earth. In its first three years, the team led by researchers from the University of California Berkeley has already achieved more than any other that’s come before.
Breakthrough Listen’s newly released data shows detailed analysis on 1,327 nearby stars and consists of a whopping one petabyte or one million gigabytes, of optical and radio telescopic data. However, the information collected in the past three years, the program comes empty-handed so far.
“This data release is a tremendous milestone for the Breakthrough Listen team,” says lead author Danny Price on their website.
“We scoured thousands of hours of observations of nearby stars, across billions of frequency channels. We found no evidence of artificial signals from beyond Earth, but this doesn’t mean there isn’t intelligent life out there: we may just not have looked in the right place yet or peered deep enough to detect faint signals.”
The search involved using radio and optical telescope observations from the Green Bank Radio Telescope in West Virginia and CSIRO’s Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia.
The project still has seven years from its 10-year program, and there is more room for improvement and development of other technologies in the pursuit of discovering forms of life in our universe.
“I am not at all discouraged,” said study co-author Andrew Siemion. “Seeing these new results submitted for publication is heartening in and of itself. These results will also help lead us toward further analysis that will place yet more stringent limits on the distribution of technologically capable life in the universe and give us a better shot at detecting something if it’s out there,” Siemon told Gizmodo.
“We knew [to go] in that it was incredibly challenging, and we are still learning more about our data, creating new algorithms—and we’ll be bringing in new telescopes in the future,” says Breakthrough Listen’s lead researcher Danny Price.
Soon, Breakthrough Listen plans on expanding its search to higher frequencies and more signal types. The team also hopes to conduct a radio survey of one million new nearby stars, as well as, radio and optical observations of the Galactic Plane and the Galactic Center, and a sample of a full million stars with the help of the MeerKAT telescope in South Africa.
From another perspective on the search of other intelligent life, assuming that humans discover them arises two scenarios: one of which is that the alien life’s civilization is lesser than ours, meaning we have better technologies or more complex survival mechanisms. Second, it details that life on Earth itself is unique, and we alone in the entire universe achieved this milestone. And this would be considered an ideal situation.
However, the second scenario details that aliens have achieved technological innovations far from human imagination or has evolved far more complex than us. This can result in extremely dangerous and hostile situations.
This is called the Great Filter, a hypothesis branching out from the Fermi Paradox (why we haven’t seen alien life).
As disappointing as it may sound, humans are more likely to thrive and survive in the first scenario, even if we discover that there is no other life in our universe.
However, it is also important to note that we may also be searching in the wrong way. It may be that the language or technology that we are using are extremely primitive, that it cannot detect other complex life. It is comparable as to trying to explain our way of life to a dog, no matter how hard.