Searching for Light From Extraterrestrials

Phil Berardelli in ScienceNOW Daily News:

For several decades, astronomers have been aiming sensitive radio receivers toward the heavens hoping to eavesdrop on signals generated by beings on planets elsewhere in the galaxy. Nothing yet, of course, but now an international team of researchers is proposing to look for flashes from alien laser beams as well using gamma-ray telescopes.

Gamma-ray telescopes are designed to detect the highest-energy particles of light: photons from exploding stars and the like. But if their ultra-fast, ultra-sensitive cameras are tuned to the proper wavelength, they also can detect faint flashes of optical light of the sort that might come from lasers positioned thousands of light-years away. “There are 20 to 30 naturally occurring light flashes recorded every second” by gamma-ray telescopes around the world, says astrophysicist Joachim Rose of the University of Leeds in the U.K. The telescope software usually ignores the flashes because it is configured to reject “anything that it doesn’t expect,” he says.

But those flashes could be evidence of intelligent life among the stars, Rose says.