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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Search for E.T. Is on Target

A team of researchers has announced a plan to search the sky's ecliptic plane (the plane of the Earth's orbit) for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence in the galaxy. Richard Conn Henry, an astronomer at Johns Hopkins University, Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute, and Steven Kilston of the Henry Foundation will use the Allen Telescope Array in a targeted search, trying to receive signals from any technologically advanced civilization in the galaxy that might be transmitting signals in our direction.
Though the ecliptic band is quite small—only three percent of the sky—if other civilizations are out there, "and we don't know that they are," Henry said in a press release, "those that inhabit star systems that lie close to the plane of the Earth's orbit around the sun will be the most motivated to send communications signals toward Earth because those civilizations will surely have detected our annual transit across the face of the sun, telling them that Earth lies in a habitable zone, where liquid water is stable."
Henry briefed other scientists on the search yesterday at the American Astronomical Society meeting in St. Louis. —Heather Wax