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Help Find Extraterrestrial Life. Really

A black and white picture of radio waves.
An example of the radio waves that UCLA's SETI needs help sorting through.
(Courtesy UCLA SETI)
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Just in case you haven’t had enough talk about a UFOs and aliens in the past few weeks, now may be your chance to help figure out whether intelligent life actually exists in outer space. Not by obsessing over some pixelated video from flat-Earth Twitter, but by helping some scientists over at UCLA.

About the project

For the past seven years, the world’s largest full steerable telescope has been scanning the cosmos, hoovering up all kinds of radio signals from across the Milky Way.

The assumption is that another civilization is transmitting radio waves at high power.
— Jean Luc-Margot, UCLA
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Now, UCLA’s SETI (which stands for “search for extraterrestrial intelligence“), says they need your help digging through the data to find out if one of those signals came from another civilization. The team is monitoring a narrow band of radio waves that they say would come, not from nature, but from an engineered device.

“The assumption is that another civilization is transmitting radio waves at high power,” said Jean-Luc Margot, the UCLA professor who’s leading the program. “If we can identify one of these signals and show that it comes from an extraterrestrial location, it’ll be pretty compelling evidence that there’s another civilization out there.”

Why they need your help

The problem is that there's a lot of noise in the dataset from human made crafts, like GPS satellites. So, they need people like you to review images of the signals to help classify them. They’ll then use the dataset to train AI to more swiftly process images in the future.

What happens if you find ET?

If you do manage to find an exceptional signal, the team at UCLA will then review it, and if it warrants further investigation, the broader scientific community will get involved.

“We’ve all seen signals that got us excited for a few minutes, but very quickly we find out that the signal doesn’t survive additional scrutiny,” said Margot.

How to help

There are about 7,500 images uploaded right now, but the team hopes to classify as many as 100,000 of them over time.

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To pitch in, head on over to AreWeAlone.Earth, because who knows … maybe we have evidence of an alien civilization sitting on a web server somewhere.

What do you want to know about fires, earthquakes, climate change or any science-related topics?
Jacob Margolis helps Southern Californians understand the science shaping our imperfect paradise and gets us prepared for what’s next.

Corrected February 15, 2023 at 6:37 PM PST
A previous version of Jean-Luc Margot's name was misspelled. We regret the error.
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