Technological advances in telescopes, observational equipment, and computers are at the forefront of what portends to be rapid advancements in the continuing search for extraterrestrial intelligence, scientists told House lawmakers last week. Such developments in the next 20 years will enable the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute and other alien-hunting agencies to gather information faster and more reliably, thus aiding in the search for alien civilizations.
As Space reported last week, scientists involved in research for SETI, which has been on the hunt for signs of alien life and tell-tale markers of extraterrestrial civilizations for over half a century, were in Washington to lobby for government funding for astronomical projects, testifying before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Among them was Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, who provided congress with details concerning the current state of SETI initiatives, one of which is the ongoing search for artificial radio signals that could possibly be productions of intelligent aliens.
“This experiment will only succeed if we can look at about a million or so star systems,” Shostak told the House committee. “That would have taken thousands of years with the current technology. Thanks to improvements, mostly in computers, that is speeding up by orders of magnitude. Over next 20 years we will be able to look at about a million other star systems.”
Still, Shostak could not guarantee that after perusing those million star systems that even a single alien civilization would be detected. He was hopeful, betting the assembled congresspersons a cup of coffee that extraterrestrials would be found by SETI in the next couple decades, but he quickly added, “I may have to buy a lot of coffee.”
Shostak’s prediction was a simple updated reiteration of the claim he made in 2014, where he told a gathering of scientists at a 2014 NASA symposium at Stanford University that aliens would be discovered within the next quarter century. He said then that in the coming years, SETI will have scanned enough star systems to give it a good shot at detecting alien electromagnetic signals.
“I think we’ll find E.T. within two dozen years using these sorts of experiments.”