Washington: Astronomers will scour the sky with infrared detector to search extraterrestrial intelligence from other worlds.
The NIROSETI team has created an infrared detector inside the dome at Lick Observatory that would scan the sky for pulses of infrared light.
Pulses from a powerful infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second. Interstellar gas and dust is almost transparent to near infrared, so these signals can be seen from greater distances. It also takes less energy to send the same amount of information using infrared signals than it would with visible light.
The idea dates back decades, Wright pointed out. Charles Townes, the late UC Berkeley scientist whose contributions to the development of lasers led to a Nobel Prize, suggested the idea in a paper published in 1961.
NIROSETI could uncover new information about the physical universe as well. It would also gather more information than previous optical detectors by recording levels of light over time so that patterns could be analyzed to for potential signs of other civilizations, a record that could be revisited as new ideas about what signals extraterrestrials might send emerge.
NIROSETI has been installed at the University of California's Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton east of San Jose and saw first light on March 15.