SETI & Technosignatures

An Opportunistic Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence with the Murchison Widefield Array

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
August 9, 2016
Filed under ,
An Opportunistic Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence with the Murchison Widefield Array
Murchison Widefield Array
Curtin University

A spectral line image cube generated from 115 minutes of MWA data that covers a field of view of 400 sq. deg. around the Galactic Centre is used to perform the first Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) with the Murchison Widefield Array.

Our work constitutes the first modern SETI experiment at low radio frequencies, here between 103 and 133 MHz, paving the way for large-scale searches with the MWA and, in the future, the low frequency Square Kilometre Array. Limits of a few hundred mJy/beam for narrow band emission (10 kHz) are derived from our data, across our 400 sq. deg. field of view. Within this field, 45 exoplanets in 38 planetary systems are known. We extract spectra at the locations of these systems from our image cube, to place limits on the presence of narrow line emission from these systems.

We then derive minimum isotropic transmitter powers for these exoplanets; a small handful of the closest objects (10s of pc) yield our best limits of order 1014 W (Equivalent Isotropic Radiated Power: EIRP). These limits lie above the highest power directional transmitters near these frequencies currently operational on Earth. A SETI experiment with the MWA covering the full accessible sky and its full frequency range would require approximately one month of observing time. The MWA frequency range, its Southern Hemisphere location on an extraordinarily radio quiet site, its very large field of view, and its high sensitivity make it a unique facility for SETI.

S.J. Tingay, C. Tremblay, A. Walsh, R. Urquhart
(Submitted on 29 Jul 2016)

Comments: Accepted to ApJ Letters
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)
Cite as: arXiv:1607.08818 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1607.08818v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Submission history
From: Steven Tingay
[v1] Fri, 29 Jul 2016 14:12:40 GMT (78kb)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻