Melbourne: Australia today launched one of the world`s fastest telescopes that will look for intelligent life in the outer regions of the universe while probing the origins of stars, galaxies and black holes.
The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), comprising 36 dishes in remote Murchison, Western Australia was unveiled today.
The USD 400 million project has already been booked out for its first five years by 350 international researchers, who will conduct projects including a census of galaxies within several billion light years of Earth, and studies of magnetic fields and black holes, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The Askap is part of Square Kilometre Array (SKA) that will begin construction in 2016.
SKA aims to become the world`s biggest radio telescope project hosted jointly by South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Hailing the official opening of the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, where the telescope system is located, SKA director Brian Boyle said part of the science programme would be the search for intelligent life.
"It`s almost as a parallel activity to all the survey work that is being done. Because as you`re surveying the sky, particularly over wide areas of sky, looking for other objects, you are also increasing the search volume for signals from extraterrestrial intelligence," he said.
Scientists had so far documented almost 1000 planets beyond our solar system, he said, "so it looks like the universe is certainly teeming with planets".
"It is very unlikely that we`ll detect any [but] the impact if we do is pretty high," he was quoted as saying by the paper.
Boyle said the Australian SKA would be able to detect 40 gigabytes per second, equivalent to 2000 Blue-ray DVDs being streamed simultaneously.
"In the first full day of operation, ASKAP will generate more information than exists in the US Library of Congress," he said.
"In fact, that is more information than all the radio astronomy archives around the world today ... In one day the SKA will generate more information than the equivalent of all the words spoken by the human race," he said.