Hunt for alien spacecraft begins, as planet-spotting scientist Geoff Marcy gets funding
By Peter Brannen
In the field of planet hunting, Geoff Marcy is a star. After all, the astronomer at the University of California at Berkeley found nearly three-quarters of the first 100 planets discovered outside our solar system. But with the hobbled planet-hunting Kepler telescope having just about reached the end of its useful life and reams of data from the mission still left uninvestigated, Marcy began looking in June for more than just new planets. He's sifting through the data to find alien spacecraft passing in front of distant stars.
He's not kidding - and now he has the funding to do it.
If intelligent life is common in the galaxy, "where is everybody?"Last fall, the Templeton Foundation, a philanthropic organisation dedicated to investigating what it calls the "big questions" - which, unsurprisingly, include "Are we alone?" - awarded Marcy $US200,000 to pursue his search for alien civilisations.
As far as Marcy, an official NASA researcher for the Kepler mission, is concerned, that question has a clear answer: "The universe is simply too large for there not to be another intelligent civilisation out there. Really, the proper question is: 'How far away is our nearest intelligent neighbour?' They could be 10 light-years, 100 light-years, a million light-years or more. We have no idea."
To answer that question Marcy has begun to sift through the Kepler data and to search the heavens for a galactic laser Internet that might be in use somewhere out there. (More on that in a bit.) . . .
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