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Corbin Covault (CWRU)

Date: Thu. February 23rd, 2017, 4:00 pm-5:00 pm
Location: Rockefeller 301

A Cosmic Ray Astrophysicist’s Approach to the Optical Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence
For decades scientists have been searching the skies for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations using large radio telescopes.  Motivation for these searches is strengthened by the discovery that earth-like planets capable of sustaining life are ubiquitous.  Several new initiatives in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence are underway.   In particular, some researchers have realized that signals sent at optical wavelengths may be promising as a plausible means of interstellar communications.  Such signals may be sent in the form of nanosecond light pulses generated by large lasers.  In principle, ground-based telescopes, together with fast light sensors, are well-suited to detect such signals.   Techniques already developed by observational astrophysicists for detecting the propagation of cosmic ray air showers in our atmosphere can be adapted to the search for light flashes from extra-terrrestrial lasers.   We describe recent efforts in Optical SETI including a design concept that is being explored by our group in at CWRU.  We are developing a new dedicated system of modular custom-designed telescopes with multifold concidence detection over a long baseline to eliminate false positives due to background atmospheric light and cosmic rays.  We predict our system should be able to scan the sky with a sensitivity much higher than can be presently achieved using conventional telescopes.  At least one prototype telescope will be deployed for test observations during Summer 2017.
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