Extraterrestrial Contact:
The New SKA Telescope

Making contact with another intelligent civilization in the cosmos would be the greatest and most profound event in the history of mankind, forever changing our perception of life and our role in it. It would impact societies around the planet like no other, just on the mere thought there are others among us in this vast, mysterious universe. It can happen as early as 2024 with the new, very ambitious and astounding SKA telescope.
A radio telescope collects radio wave signals from objects millions or billions of light-years away, which are then processed by computers to interpret those signals into images of the universe.
WWThe Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope is an array of thousands of antennas that when linked together via optic fiber cables, will add up to a surface area of one square kilometer, working together as one enormous unit, 50 times more powerful and 10,000 times faster than any other radio telescope ever built—the world’s largest telescope.
WWWThe region with the highest concentration of receivers will be construction in North Cape Province, Africa, about 80 kilometers from the town of Camarvon, and the low frequency array will be in constructed in Western Australia, starting in 2016. These remote locations are necessary because electronics and machines emit radio waves that interfere with the faint signals coming from the heavens, and it needs to be as high as possible as some cosmic radio waves are absorbed by the moisture of the atmosphere.
WWWTeams of radio astronomy scientists and engineers from around the world will work together on its design, and will consist of 3,000 dishes integrated into a single system. It will be a $2.5 billion project with massive and unprecedented computational power. The amount of data the SKA will be able to collect in 24-hours would take about two-million years to play back on an iPod, and have the processing power of one hundred million PCs. It’s scheduled to be completed in 2024.
WWWThe headquarters for the SKA project is at the Jordell Bank Observatory in Manchester, England, with between 13 and 20 countries and around 100 organizations participating, and more are joining.
SKA will shine new light on how stars and galaxies are formed, how they evolved over time, what is the dark matter and dark energy that composes 95% of the universe, how  magnetic fields are formed, and the nature of gravity—an alternative view of the cos nebulae3universe not possible with optical telescopes. It will have the capability to reach back 14 billion years into the past—the very birth of our universe. SKA will also probe the habitable zone, or Goldilocks zone of suns like our own, at which greater odds are in place favoring the development of life. To me though, the most intriguing and exciting prospect, is SKAs realistic potential to seek out and find extraterrestrial civilizations.
Among the stars
This super-telescope will be able to detect extremely weak extraterrestrial radio transmissions proving the existence of technologically advanced alien civilizations, being so sensitive as to be able to pick-up airport radar on a planet 50 light years away. It will expand the volume of the Milky Way in its search for intentional beacons by a factor of 1000, by using a wider range of frequencies than ever attempted before. Also, astrobiologists will use the SKA to search for amino acids—the building blocks of life—by identifying spectral lines at specific frequencies.
WWWIf we do detect a signal, the challenge of beginning a dialogue would indeed be monumental, as decades or centuries would be needed for signals to traverse light-years away, and double that amount of time to receive a response.
stars in spaceFinding intelligent life elsewhere may be the catalyst to the unification our own planet, as the “others” would be the extraterrestrials, moving us away from the tribalism mentality so pervasive in our cultures. There would be no longer be “them” on our planet, it would just be “us.”
WWWIt would have a powerful impact on religious beliefs especially for those who hold that man is unique in the universe; conversely, a survey found that many religions have factored this possibility into their faith (Crowe, 1986). A discovery of this magnitude would no doubt manifest in innumerable philosophical discussions about our place in the universe, engendering both elation and fear as to whether we will benefit from such a contact.
WWWAs members of an awesome and majestic universe, we have no choice but to venture in search of life elsewhere. It is our calling and in our inquisitive nature that drives us in pursuit of the never-ending quest of truth, to know if we are alone or if life abounds elsewhere in this unimaginably vast and magnificent universe.
© Joe Arrigo
The video below features Jill Tarter, Director for SETI Research,
SETI Institute, responding to what our response could be from a first contact.