Optical SETI at UCSB: Trillion Planet Survey

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Contact: 

First Name: 

Philip

Last Name: 

Lubin

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Project Description

SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) has been operating in the broad radio bands for over fifty years, but has not yet found evidence of signals from distant intelligent civilizations. Drake and others (Drake equation – see https://www.seti.org/drake-equation-index ) have calculated that it is unlikely that we are the only planet to have developed life. The implications of recent discoveries by the Kepler Mission that there is at least one planet for every star, many of them within habitable zones around their parent stars, have profound implications for the possibility of finding ETs. Thus, there could be other civilizations, in our galaxy or other galaxies, which may have evolved past our current Technology Readiness Level (TRL) and have been capable of producing directed energy beams that we may be able to observe “now.” Such beams of directed energy from ETs, if pointed in our direction, would be as bright as, or brighter than, a supernova seen in another galaxy. This possibility has profound implications for optical SETI.  
 
We are conducting a “Trillion Planet Survey (TPS)” to search for continuous wave laser beacons from intelligent civilizations in Andromeda (our nearest galactic neighbor, 2.5 million light years away) and other galaxies, as well as within our own galactic plane. We are using the Las Cumbres Global Telescope Network to scan Andromeda and other galaxies every night for several months, and analyze the data for optical transients that don’t match known natural transients (supernovae, variable stars, MACHOs, etc.) to search for signals that could be sent by intelligent beings. If we find and verify such a signal, it would be paradigm changing for humanity.
 
Undergraduate Contribution
 
Undergraduates will contribute to developing and testing the software "pipeline" and analyzing images.
 
Requirements/Application Instructions
 
This project is suitable for second year physics and Earth science majors. Recommended courses are concurrent enrollment in Astro 1 (or having passed Astro 1 or its equivalent at SBCC with a B or better), and concurrent enrollment in Physics 134 (Experimental Astrophysics). It is also recommended that students be enrolled in, or have passed with a B or better, introductory physics courses (1-5 series, 20-25 series, or 6A-B-C for Earth Science majors).  
 
To apply, please send email to Professor Philip Lubin at lubin@ucsb.edu. State your major, year in school, interest in the project, and whether you have taken, or are taking, the above listed courses.
 

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