Main   Terms   People   Interviews   Resources   Events

A Pseudo-interferometer

So, we now routinely use two telescopes, widely separated, in what we call a “two-element pseudo-interferometer.” It is a pseudo-interferometer because we never actually bring the signals together and change-delay the phase of one and multiply them together. But it does work like an interferometer and it works very well.

We were in Australia in 1995 and spent a year and a half at Green Bank, West Virginia. We are now at Arecibo, our second telescope being in the United Kingdom, the Lowell telescope in Jodrell Bank.

At Arecibo we observe within plus or minus 6 hours of local midnight. We do this not because the sun is a strong radio source, but because of the solar wind. The charged particles leaving the sun can actually destroy the coherence of a narrow signal. So we are observing at night and every day we detect an extraterrestrial signal.

We have detected the transmitter on board the Pioneer 10 Spacecraft, which has now left the solar system. It moves on the sky like a star. It has a transmitter of a few watts broadcasting essentially 6 billion miles away and we detect it very well.

What have we learned to date? For about 400 stars at frequencies between 1.2 and 3 gigahertz, we have not found any transmitters with at least 1012 watts of effective isotropic radiated power (that is equivalent to a strong terrestrial radar). Our observing is very efficient and we are continuing with the next 600 stars.

Contributed by: Dr. Jill Tarter and Jim Miller

Cosmic Questions

Are We Alone? Topic Index
What is SETI?

A Pseudo-interferometer

Life in the Universe
Detecting Intelligence
Electromagnetic Signals
Sky Surveys: Serendip IV, BETA and Argus
Targeted Search: Project Phoenix
Plans for the Future


Jill Tarter

Related Media:

Is There Intelligent Life Elsewhere in the Universe?
Did the Universe Have a Beginning?
Was the Universe Designed?
Are We Alone?
Interview Index
Hubble Deep Field Animation
  Media Index

Other Resources:

Glossary Terms
Bonus Material Home...