Well, I have some good news and some bad news. SETI recently launched its first ‘directed’ search effort and, as you’ve probably already guessed, they didn’t find anything to write home about.
Up until recently, SETI has surveyed the sky in a very random way. Let’s create an analogy to understand this particular search method. Say you put a dime 100-meters away, in any direction encompassing a 360 degree sphere around you. Then, you put on a blind fold and pick up a rifle, spin around, point the gun in whatever direction it happens to be facing, and fire – and you hope you hit the dime (not, please don’t try this at home, it’s a really bad idea).
Now, with data from the Kepler Space Telescope, SETI was able to focus a search on star system which seem more likely to actually harbor life. In this case, the researchers chose systems that host planets in the habitable zone with a 50+ day orbital period and at least five planets.
Researchers focused on the 1-2 GHz range since they believe that range has the greatest likelihood of being generated by some engineering source. The survey itself took place between February and April, 2011. Originally, the scientists were looking at a group of 86 stars, rather quickly the group was narrowed to 52, and it just kept going downhill from there.
As I gave away in the opening sentence, after the survey was complete, scientists reported no signs of intelligent life. Though slightly depressing, the result isn’t entirely unexpected. Hopefully, as Kepler – and other telescopes – reveal the hidden locations of planets throughout the galaxy, SETI will continue to conduct searches in a less chaotic fashion. Who knows what we’ll find.
Sources and further reading:
First directed SETI search comes up empty