ET hasn't phoned home … yet

ET hasn't phoned home … yet

Scientists say sorry for false alarm over alien contact

Scientists searching for life on other planets sparked excitement last week when they announced they had picked up alien-like radio signals. Online science magazines and blogs eagerly claimed that experts from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Seti) project at the University of California were working to decode the "alien signals".

But sadly, it all turned out to be a misunderstanding. The weird signals were in fact interference that was coming from our own world.

The Seti scientists said: "We know these signals are interference, but look similar to what we think might be produced from an extraterrestrial technology." They said they were sorry for any confusion.

Green Bank Telescope

Seti searches for ET using the Green Bank Telescope. Image courtesy of NRAO/AUI

The Seti project searches for signs of intelligence on distant planets using the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, USA, the world's largest fully steerable radio telescope. The Green Bank Telescope targets habitable planets outside our solar system which have been detected by Kepler, a space telescope launched by NASA in 2009.

The Seti scientists have chosen 80 planets which could have liquid on their surface for their search for aliens. They are trying to detect any radio signals which could be sent from extraterrestrial intelligence by "listening in" to signals from the telescope while it is being used for other experiments.

Adapted from an article on The Daily What News.

What would you do if you found signs of alien contact? The scientists at Seti have their own ideas. Do you agree? Try our quiz and find out!

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Curriculum information

  • Summary

    The Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) continues to look for signs of intelligent life in the universe. Some unusual radio signals caused some excitement but were found to come from an Earthly source. Challenge your students to think about how they would look for extra-terrestrial life.

    Curriculum key wordsOther web links
    • How science works
    • Earth and space
    SETI Institute
    Images of stars, nebulae and galaxies
    Is there life on Mars? Phoenix mission
    Mars Viking mission
    Science Curriculum Links
    National CurriculumCurriculum for excellenceNorthern Ireland Curriculum
    Planning investigations, collecting, presenting and interpreting data (KS 3 and 4 How Science Works)The likelihood of life existing elsewhere in the Universe (SCN 3-06a)Space travel and life on other planets (GCSE Physics)