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NASA Eavesdroppers to Listen In on Space

The most ambitious and sophisticated effort ever is being planned to scan the heavens for signals from outer space. The NASA-financed plan will eavesdrop on microwave radiation that reaches Earth from space, using machines and computers to listen for microwave patterns that nature never produces but that humans, with their crude technology, often do.

The program will break the microwave spectrum into 10 million or 100 million channels and search them systematically.

“It will cover a volume of space that is 10 million times greater than everything that’s been done over the past 25 years,” Jill Tarter of the University of California, Berkeley, said last week. “These are the initial steps of a grand exploration of the microwave system, looking for evidence of an artificially generated signal. Our civilization, for the very first time, can contemplate undertaking, out of pure curiosity, a search that may not bear fruitful results for many generations.”

Tarter said the extraterrestrial search is in the third year of a five-year research and development program. The project is expected to search for alien signals through the end of the century.

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