Scientists have been searching for aliens for centuries, but new research reveals that if intelligent extraterrestrial life exists, it's likely not anywhere nearby.
As part of the decade-long $100 million Breakthrough Listen initiative funded by Israeli-Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, researchers conducted the most comprehensive Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence program ever undertaken. The team led by University of California, Berkeley astrophysicist Danny Price looked at 1,327 nearby stars across billions of frequency channels in an attempt to detect signs of intelligent life.
Results of their search was released in a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal with the researchers revealing that they came up empty.
Ambitious Project Finds Nothing Nearby
Breakthrough Listen used the Green Bank Radio Telescope in West Virginia and CSIRO's Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia to scan the cosmos for "technosignatures," which are transmissions or other evidence of technologically savvy life forms from other worlds. The 1,327 stars were all observed at the radio frequencies ranging from 1 to 10 gigahertz.
For the recent release, the researchers scoured 1 petabyte of data using various techniques, including looking for signals within a narrow range of radio frequencies and scanning for bright lasers that may be indicative of alien communication or propulsion.
With events consistent with terrestrial activities excluded, the team found themselves with zero candidates of extraterrestrial activity over the last three years. It turns out, there aren't aliens out there reaching out to Earth through advanced technology.
Are We Alone?
Despite coming up short in the recent data release, scientists are not deterred and continue to search for signs of extraterrestrial life.
"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," Price pointed out in a statement from Breakthrough Listen.
Study coauthor Andrew Siemion told Gizmodo that he's not discouraged by their results, adding that witnessing their research submitted for publication is already a heartening prospect.
"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," he explained.
After all, it's a vast universe with billions and billions of stars and galaxies stretching out into infinity. This most recent data dump only looks at a handful of stars, and scientists are continuing to develop and refine technology involved in the alien hunt.
Next up, the team is planning to scale up their search to include higher frequencies and more signal types. With the use of the MeerKAT telescope array in South Africa, the scientists will be able to scan over a million stars nearby for technosignatures.
Additionally, with the entirety of the data publicly available through the Breakthrough Listen Open Data Archive, anyone can take a look at the data and even search for signals that they might have missed.