Citizen Scientist sees “Death Star” in SETI data set

#clickbait, #outerspaceradiowavemetadata, #alienlife, #clickbait, #fakenews

We didn’t really find an E.T. Death Star.

In preparation for the SETI Institute’s Hackathon and Code Challenge, a citizen scientist, Dr. Arun Ramamoorthy, who is also a researcher at Arizona State University, was looking at data from the SETI@IBMCloud project.

In particular, he was looking at the metadata for the raw SETI data, found in a table called SignalDB. To get started, he wanted to simply visualize this data as a sphere.

Amongst other things, the SignalDB database contains the Right Ascension (RA) and Declination (DEC) coordinates for all “Candidate” events observed by the SETI Institute from 2013 to 2015. The RA and DEC values specify the location of objects in the sky. By mapping the (RA,DEC) coordinates to a sphere and then rotating through a small angle multiple times, Dr. Ramamoorthy was able to create this “Death Star” GIF:

Dr. Arun Ramamoorthy’s “Death Star” of radio signal observations from the SETI@IBMCloud data set.

The block of data points (where the Death Star’s “superlaser” shoots out of) maps to the location of a number of star systems in the “Kepler field.” This is a patch of sky observed by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft where thousands of exoplanets were discovered before the spacecraft malfunctioned in 2012. Since the SETI Institute tends to observes stars with known exoplanets, this field shows up predominantly because of the large number of observations made in this area.

The Kepler Field shows us that, on average, 1.6 exoplanets orbit each star in our galaxy. This means there are roughly 160 billion planets in our galaxy, 40 billion of which may be rocky planets within the habitable zone. What’s the likelihood that any one of these planets host intelligent life?

If you’re interested in joining the SETI Institute on its mission, or looking at the data yourself, register for the upcoming SETI Institute hackathon and code challenge.

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