Across the Universe: Waiting for the Call – The Catholic Astronomer

This column first ran in The Tablet in September 2010 Fifty years ago, a young radio astronomer named Frank Drake got time on the new radio telescope at Green Bank, West Virginia, to listen in for intelligent signals from two nearby sun-like stars. It was the birth of SETI: the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Within a year he had presented, at a seminar in the observer’s lounge of the Green Bank observatory dormitory, what has come to be called The Drake Equation: a string of probabilities that would have to be determined to calculate the odds of finding an extraterrestrial civilization. How many stars have planets? How many planets have life? What are the odds that the life is intelligent in the sense of building radio transmitters powerful enough for us to detect? And what is the typical lifetime of such a civilization before it collapses? In 2010, I was part of a workshop held in that same lounge on “SETI … Continue reading →

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