SETI Project Phoenix

Nico L. (
Thu, 09 Sep 1999 23:25:16 +0300

 Nico Lonetti Cosenza - Italy Time zone: GMT + 2

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Project Phoenix
Phoenix Logo

SETI Institute

Project Phoenix

Project Phoenix is the world's most sensitive and comprehensive search for extraterrestrial intelligence. It is an effort to detect extraterrestrial civilizations by listening for radio signals that are either being deliberately beamed our way, or are inadvertently transmitted from another planet. Phoenix is the successor to the ambitious NASA SETI program that was cancelled by a budget-conscious Congress in 1993.


Phoenix began observations in February, 1995 using the Parkes 210 foot radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia. This is the largest radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere.

140 foot telescope Following the southern observing campaign, the project turned its attention to northern stars. Appropriately, this phase brought the search back to its roots at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia. The 140 Foot Telescope is only a short distance from the antenna used by Frank Drake in Project Ozma. Project Phoenix operated in Green Bank from September 1996 through April 1998, using the telescope about 50% of the time. As the primary instrument in Green Bank, the antenna was shared with other astronomers.

Phoenix doesn't scan the whole sky. Rather, it scrutinizes the vicinities of nearby, sun-like stars. Such stars are most likely to host long-lived planets capable of supporting life. We naturally include stars that are known to have planets. There are about one thousand stars targeted for observation by Project Phoenix. All are within 200 light-years distance.

Observing at Arecibo

Because millions of radio channels are simultaneously monitored by Phoenix, most of the "listening" is done by computers. Nonetheless, astronomers are required to make critical decisions about signals that look intriguing.

Signal from Pioneer 10 Phoenix looks for signals between 1,000 and 3,000 MHz. Signals that are at only one spot on the radio dial (narrow-band signals) are the "signature" of an intelligent transmission. The spectrum searched by Phoenix is broken into very narrow 1 Hz-wide channels, so two billion channels are examined for each target star.

Observations are currently being made during two three-week sessions each year using the 1,000 foot radio telescope at Arecibo, in Puerto Rico. During the observing sessions, the astronomers on duty post reports.

By mid-1999, Phoenix had examined about half of the stars on its "hit list." So far, no clearly extraterrestrial transmissions have been found. But the faint whine that would betray an alien civilization might be heard tomorrow.

Project Phoenix is sustained entirely through private funding. Find out how you can help support the search.

Project Phoenix Information:

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