Astronomy

An Overview on Project Phoenix



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With a universe as vast as ours and very little way of knowing where anyone else might be where do you begin to look for signals from other worlds? This is the question that SETI asked itself before beginning project Phoenix and the answer it came up with was simple. Let us start with our cosmological neighborhood and starts that look like they could be similar to our own.

With this criteria chosen project Phoenix began. In February 1995 the Parks Radio Telescope in New South Whales, Australia began to search the list of 800 stars that fit the criteria. In 1996 they were joined by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Banks, West Virginia.

The project searched specifically for radio signals on a very broad frequency range making it both one of the narrowest searches in focus broadest in spread. In March of 2004 the project finished its search of those 800 stars without having discovered any evidence of extra terrestrial messages.

When asked for comment on this the project leader Peter Backus remarked "We live in a very quiet Neighborhood".

It is easy to assume because the project did not find any messages that it was a failure, and perhaps the entire idea of searching the universe for signals is one that should be put off. There are so many other important places that the money could be spent. Humans on this world are starving and we spend millions on the search for messages that we don't even find.

But, we must look at this is another way. When asked about his failure to produce a working light bulb after 10,000 tries Thomas Edison replied that he had not failed, he had not failed he had simply discovered 10,000 ways that don't work. Thanks to the search of the sky by project Phoenix we now know more about this part of the galaxy than we did before and though that may not feed the hungry exploration and expansion of knowledge are at the very heart of humanity. They are what make us a species that has covered this world and taken the first feeble steps off of it.

In the search for extra terrestrial intelligence there are only two possibilities. Either there is someone out there or we are the only ones that exist. Either way, by understanding that basic fact we would far better understand our place in the universe. Are we part of a cosmic community, are we one of many species that are looking into the sky and asking the same questions or are we the single flickering flame in an otherwise dead universe the only hope that biological life has to exist? No matter the answer the search for that answer is important and should be continued.

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