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Space experts to meet in Tokyo to discuss ways to deflect asteroids TOKYO, Japan, 17-May-2017 — /EuropaWire/ — Scientists and engineers from all over the world will gather from 15 to 19 May in Tokyo, Japan, at the 5th Planetary Defence Conference (PDC) to discuss the threat posed by asteroids and comets. This bi-annual conference, organized by the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) will discuss actions that might be taken to deflect an incoming object. At the first conference on asteroid impact prevention to be held in Asia, space experts from Airbus will provide an update on the NEOShield-2 project and will introduce an alternative kinetic impactor demo mission scenario, called NEOTωIST. NEOShield-2 is a collaborative project that started in 2015 as part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme and is developing the necessary space mission technologies to divert hazardous asteroids. The project is also investigating how to precisely measure any deflection attempts and how to carry out in-situ investigations. Astronomical observations, modelling, simulations and physical characterization of Near Earth Objects (NEOs) are being studied to better understand their physical properties. The research is also looking at a European strategy for future research and mission-related endeavours. The NEOShield-2 team comprises 11 European partners under the coordination of Airbus in Friedrichshafen (Germany). Airbus in Toulouse (France) and in Stevenage (United Kingdom) are also part of the project. The project overview and its achievements reached so far will be presented in Tokyo by Airbus’s Albert Falke, project manager and responsible project coordinator of NEOShield-2 towards the European Union. Kilian Engel, space expert at Airbus and Line Drube, postdoctoral researcher at the German Aerospace Center (DLR-Berlin), will present the NEOTωIST concept, an element of the NEOShield-2 project. NEOTωIST is a test mission to demonstrate “deflection technology readiness” and to answer the uncertainties in the asteroid deflection physics that cannot be proven on Earth. Albert Falke, who heads Airbus’s asteroid deflection programme, said: “A deflection test mission, perhaps in a joint effort by several space agencies, is needed to develop technologies to enable us to deal with an asteroid threat. Most importantly, it would give us real data which is vital for the development of a mission in cases of real emergency.” A deflection test mission with an asteroid in space is the only way to validate existing impact models and to check that the current computer models of deflection predictions are accurate. Ulrich Johann, Head of Future Programmes, at Airbus’s Science and Earth Observation department in Friedrichshafen, Germany said: “The NEOTωIST concept combines an impactor and an in situ monitoring module in a single spacecraft. This cost-effective approach providing on the spot observation capabilities should lead to more launch opportunities for NEOTωIST compared to other concepts.” Most demonstration mission concepts to date rely on changing an asteroid’s orbit around the sun and require a second spacecraft that follows the asteroid for some time after the impact to measure the very small shift in its orbit. In contrast, the Airbus concept is to impact a wellcharacterized asteroid at some distance from its rotation axis, and thereby change the asteroid’s rotational period. This change can be measured by Earth-bound telescopes. In parallel, a small observation module which is separated from the main kinetic impactor spacecraft just before impact, will also measure this rotation change. These close-up observations will give detailed information about the impact location and success of the mission.


News Article | April 19, 2017
Site: www.rdmag.com

If an asteroid struck Earth, which of its effects--scorching heat, flying debris, towering tsunamis--would claim the most lives? A new study has the answer: violent winds and shock waves are the most dangerous effects produced by Earth-impacting asteroids. The study explored seven effects associated with asteroid impacts--heat, pressure shock waves, flying debris, tsunamis, wind blasts, seismic shaking and cratering--and estimated their lethality for varying sizes. The researchers then ranked the effects from most to least deadly, or how many lives were lost to each effect. Overall, wind blasts and shock waves were likely to claim the most casualties, according to the study. In experimental scenarios, these two effects accounted for more than 60 percent of lives lost. Shock waves arise from a spike in atmospheric pressure and can rupture internal organs, while wind blasts carry enough power to hurl human bodies and flatten forests. "This is the first study that looks at all seven impact effects generated by hazardous asteroids and estimates which are, in terms of human loss, most severe," said Clemens Rumpf, a senior research assistant at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, and lead author of the new study published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. Rumpf said his findings, which he plans to present at the 2017 International Academy of Astronautics Planetary Defense Conference in Tokyo, Japan, could help hazard mitigation groups better prepare for asteroid threats because it details which impact effects are most dominant, which are less severe and where resources should be allocated. Though studies like his are necessary to reduce harm, deadly asteroid impacts are still rare, Rumpf said. Earth is struck by an asteroid 60 meters (more than 190 feet) wide approximately once every 1500 years, whereas an asteroid 400 meters (more than 1,300 feet) across is likely to strike the planet every 100,000 years, according to Rumpf. "The likelihood of an asteroid impact is really low," said Rumpf. "But the consequences can be unimaginable." Rumpf and his colleagues used models to pepper the globe with 50,000 artificial asteroids ranging from 15 to 400 meters (49 to 1312 feet) across--the diameter range of asteroids that most frequently strike the Earth. The researchers then estimated how many lives would be lost to each of the seven effects. Land-based impacts were, on average, an order of magnitude more dangerous than asteroids that landed in oceans. Large, ocean-impacting asteroids could generate enough power to trigger a tsunami, but the wave's energy would likely dissipate as it traveled and eventually break when it met a continental shelf. Even if a tsunami were to reach coastal communities, far fewer people would die than if the same asteroid struck land, Rumpf said. Overall, tsunamis accounted for 20 percent of lives lost, according to the study. The heat generated by an asteroid accounted for nearly 30 percent of lives lost, according to the study. Affected populations could likely avoid harm by hiding in basements and other underground structures, Rumpf said. Seismic shaking was of least concern, as it accounted for only 0.17 percent of casualties, according to the study. Cratering and airborne debris were similarly less concerning, both garnering fewer than 1 percent of deaths. Only asteroids that spanned at least 18 meters (nearly 60 feet) in diameter were lethal. Many asteroids on the lower end of this spectrum disintegrate in Earth's atmosphere before reaching the planet's surface, but they strike more frequently than larger asteroids and generate enough heat and explosive energy to deal damage. For example, the meteor involved in the 2013 impact in Chelyabinsk, Russia, was 17 to 20 meters (roughly 55 to 65 feet) across and caused more than 1,000 injuries, inflicting burns and temporary blindness on people nearby. "This report is a reasonable step forward in trying to understand and come to grips with the hazards posed by asteroids and comet impactors," said geophysicist Jay Melosh, a distinguished professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana. Melosh, who wasn't involved in the study, added that the findings "lead one to appreciate the role of air blasts in asteroid impacts as we saw in Chelyabinsk." The majority of the injuries in the Chelyabinsk impact were caused by broken glass sent flying into the faces of unknowing locals peering through their windows after the meteor's bright flash, he noted. The study's findings could help mitigate loss of human life, according to Rumpf. Small towns facing the impact of an asteroid 30 meters across (about 98 feet) may fare best by evacuating. However, an asteroid 200 meters wide (more than 650 feet) headed for a densely-populated city poses a greater risk and could warrant a more involved response, he said. "If only 10 people are affected, then maybe it's better to evacuate the area," Rumpf said. "But if 1,000,000 people are affected, it may be worthwhile to mount a deflection mission and push the asteroid out of the way."


News Article | April 19, 2017
Site: www.rdmag.com

If an asteroid struck Earth, which of its effects--scorching heat, flying debris, towering tsunamis--would claim the most lives? A new study has the answer: violent winds and shock waves are the most dangerous effects produced by Earth-impacting asteroids. The study explored seven effects associated with asteroid impacts--heat, pressure shock waves, flying debris, tsunamis, wind blasts, seismic shaking and cratering--and estimated their lethality for varying sizes. The researchers then ranked the effects from most to least deadly, or how many lives were lost to each effect. Overall, wind blasts and shock waves were likely to claim the most casualties, according to the study. In experimental scenarios, these two effects accounted for more than 60 percent of lives lost. Shock waves arise from a spike in atmospheric pressure and can rupture internal organs, while wind blasts carry enough power to hurl human bodies and flatten forests. "This is the first study that looks at all seven impact effects generated by hazardous asteroids and estimates which are, in terms of human loss, most severe," said Clemens Rumpf, a senior research assistant at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, and lead author of the new study published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. Rumpf said his findings, which he plans to present at the 2017 International Academy of Astronautics Planetary Defense Conference in Tokyo, Japan, could help hazard mitigation groups better prepare for asteroid threats because it details which impact effects are most dominant, which are less severe and where resources should be allocated. Though studies like his are necessary to reduce harm, deadly asteroid impacts are still rare, Rumpf said. Earth is struck by an asteroid 60 meters (more than 190 feet) wide approximately once every 1500 years, whereas an asteroid 400 meters (more than 1,300 feet) across is likely to strike the planet every 100,000 years, according to Rumpf. "The likelihood of an asteroid impact is really low," said Rumpf. "But the consequences can be unimaginable." Rumpf and his colleagues used models to pepper the globe with 50,000 artificial asteroids ranging from 15 to 400 meters (49 to 1312 feet) across--the diameter range of asteroids that most frequently strike the Earth. The researchers then estimated how many lives would be lost to each of the seven effects. Land-based impacts were, on average, an order of magnitude more dangerous than asteroids that landed in oceans. Large, ocean-impacting asteroids could generate enough power to trigger a tsunami, but the wave's energy would likely dissipate as it traveled and eventually break when it met a continental shelf. Even if a tsunami were to reach coastal communities, far fewer people would die than if the same asteroid struck land, Rumpf said. Overall, tsunamis accounted for 20 percent of lives lost, according to the study. The heat generated by an asteroid accounted for nearly 30 percent of lives lost, according to the study. Affected populations could likely avoid harm by hiding in basements and other underground structures, Rumpf said. Seismic shaking was of least concern, as it accounted for only 0.17 percent of casualties, according to the study. Cratering and airborne debris were similarly less concerning, both garnering fewer than 1 percent of deaths. Only asteroids that spanned at least 18 meters (nearly 60 feet) in diameter were lethal. Many asteroids on the lower end of this spectrum disintegrate in Earth's atmosphere before reaching the planet's surface, but they strike more frequently than larger asteroids and generate enough heat and explosive energy to deal damage. For example, the meteor involved in the 2013 impact in Chelyabinsk, Russia, was 17 to 20 meters (roughly 55 to 65 feet) across and caused more than 1,000 injuries, inflicting burns and temporary blindness on people nearby. "This report is a reasonable step forward in trying to understand and come to grips with the hazards posed by asteroids and comet impactors," said geophysicist Jay Melosh, a distinguished professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana. Melosh, who wasn't involved in the study, added that the findings "lead one to appreciate the role of air blasts in asteroid impacts as we saw in Chelyabinsk." The majority of the injuries in the Chelyabinsk impact were caused by broken glass sent flying into the faces of unknowing locals peering through their windows after the meteor's bright flash, he noted. The study's findings could help mitigate loss of human life, according to Rumpf. Small towns facing the impact of an asteroid 30 meters across (about 98 feet) may fare best by evacuating. However, an asteroid 200 meters wide (more than 650 feet) headed for a densely-populated city poses a greater risk and could warrant a more involved response, he said. "If only 10 people are affected, then maybe it's better to evacuate the area," Rumpf said. "But if 1,000,000 people are affected, it may be worthwhile to mount a deflection mission and push the asteroid out of the way."


News Article | April 20, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

A series of video frames shows the Chelyabinsk meteor passing through the skies above the Siberian city of Kamensk-Uralskiy on Feb. 15, 2013. (Aleksandr Ivanov / Popova et al. / Science / AAAS) If an asteroid strikes, don’t head for the hills, or the windows: Head for the basement. A study aimed at sorting out the effects of a catastrophic asteroid impact found that violent winds and pressure shock waves would be the biggest killers, accounting for more than 60 percent of the lives lost in simulated scenarios. “This is the first study that looks at all seven impact effects generated by hazardous asteroids and estimates which are, in terms of human loss, most severe,” Clemens Rumpf, a senior research assistant at the University of Southampton in Britain, said today in a news release from the American Geophysical Union. Rumpf is the lead author of the study, which is published in Geophysical Research Letters, an AGU journal. The seven effects on Rumpf’s list are wind blasts, shock waves, heat, flying debris, tsunami waves, cratering and seismic shaking. The researchers lumped wind blasts and shock waves together because those phenomena would tend to occur together in the wake of an asteroid strike. The winds whipped up by an impact would carry enough power to hurl human bodies and flatten forests, while the spike in atmospheric pressure would set off shock waves strong enough to rupture internal organs. To gauge the damage, the researchers ran 50,000 simulated scenarios with artificial asteroids ranging from 15 to 400 meters (49 to 1,312 feet) across. They found that land-based impacts would be roughly 10 times as dangerous as ocean impacts. Large asteroids hitting the ocean could generate huge tsunami waves; however, the waves’ energy would tend to dissipate as it traveled. Tsunamis accounted for more than 70 percent of the deaths associated with an ocean impact, but only about 20 percent of the lives lost across all scenarios. Heat effects were implicated in nearly 30 percent of the deaths in the land-based simulations, and here’s where Rumpf offered his advice. He said affected populations were likely to avoid harm by hiding in basements and other underground structures. Cratering and airborne debris each accounted for less than 1 percent of the deaths. Seismic shaking was of the least concern, causing only 0.17 percent of the casualties in the simulated scenarios. Rumpf emphasized that the risk of an asteroid strike is low, ranging from once every 1,500 years for a 190-foot-wide space rock to once every 100,000 years for a 1,300-foot-wide monster. The scenarios suggest that most asteroids on the lower end of the spectrum burn up in the atmosphere. An asteroid would have to be wider than 60 feet across to be lethal. That’s roughly the width of the asteroid involved in the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor blast, which injured hundreds of people in the vicinity of the Siberian city but caused no known deaths. Most of the injuries in Chelyabinsk occurred when the shock wave from the blast sent broken window glass flying into the faces of spectators. Purdue geophysicist Jay Melosh, who wasn’t involved in the study, said the report represents “a reasonable step forward in trying to understand and come to grips with the hazards posed by asteroids and comet impactors.” Rumpf said the findings could help Earthlings plan for future asteroid strikes. “If only 10 people are affected, then maybe it’s better to evacuate the area,” he said. “But if a million people are affected, it may be worthwhile to mount a deflection mission and push the asteroid out of the way.” Rumpf plans to present his findings at the 2017 International Academy of Astronautics Planetary Defense Conference, set for next month in Tokyo.


News Article | April 19, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

WASHINGTON, DC -- If an asteroid struck Earth, which of its effects--scorching heat, flying debris, towering tsunamis--would claim the most lives? A new study has the answer: violent winds and shock waves are the most dangerous effects produced by Earth-impacting asteroids. The study explored seven effects associated with asteroid impacts--heat, pressure shock waves, flying debris, tsunamis, wind blasts, seismic shaking and cratering--and estimated their lethality for varying sizes. The researchers then ranked the effects from most to least deadly, or how many lives were lost to each effect. Overall, wind blasts and shock waves were likely to claim the most casualties, according to the study. In experimental scenarios, these two effects accounted for more than 60 percent of lives lost. Shock waves arise from a spike in atmospheric pressure and can rupture internal organs, while wind blasts carry enough power to hurl human bodies and flatten forests. "This is the first study that looks at all seven impact effects generated by hazardous asteroids and estimates which are, in terms of human loss, most severe," said Clemens Rumpf, a senior research assistant at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, and lead author of the new study published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. Rumpf said his findings, which he plans to present at the 2017 International Academy of Astronautics Planetary Defense Conference in Tokyo, Japan, could help hazard mitigation groups better prepare for asteroid threats because it details which impact effects are most dominant, which are less severe and where resources should be allocated. Though studies like his are necessary to reduce harm, deadly asteroid impacts are still rare, Rumpf said. Earth is struck by an asteroid 60 meters (more than 190 feet) wide approximately once every 1500 years, whereas an asteroid 400 meters (more than 1,300 feet) across is likely to strike the planet every 100,000 years, according to Rumpf. "The likelihood of an asteroid impact is really low," said Rumpf. "But the consequences can be unimaginable." Rumpf and his colleagues used models to pepper the globe with 50,000 artificial asteroids ranging from 15 to 400 meters (49 to 1312 feet) across--the diameter range of asteroids that most frequently strike the Earth. The researchers then estimated how many lives would be lost to each of the seven effects. Land-based impacts were, on average, an order of magnitude more dangerous than asteroids that landed in oceans. Large, ocean-impacting asteroids could generate enough power to trigger a tsunami, but the wave's energy would likely dissipate as it traveled and eventually break when it met a continental shelf. Even if a tsunami were to reach coastal communities, far fewer people would die than if the same asteroid struck land, Rumpf said. Overall, tsunamis accounted for 20 percent of lives lost, according to the study. The heat generated by an asteroid accounted for nearly 30 percent of lives lost, according to the study. Affected populations could likely avoid harm by hiding in basements and other underground structures, Rumpf said. Seismic shaking was of least concern, as it accounted for only 0.17 percent of casualties, according to the study. Cratering and airborne debris were similarly less concerning, both garnering fewer than 1 percent of deaths. Only asteroids that spanned at least 18 meters (nearly 60 feet) in diameter were lethal. Many asteroids on the lower end of this spectrum disintegrate in Earth's atmosphere before reaching the planet's surface, but they strike more frequently than larger asteroids and generate enough heat and explosive energy to deal damage. For example, the meteor involved in the 2013 impact in Chelyabinsk, Russia, was 17 to 20 meters (roughly 55 to 65 feet) across and caused more than 1,000 injuries, inflicting burns and temporary blindness on people nearby. "This report is a reasonable step forward in trying to understand and come to grips with the hazards posed by asteroids and comet impactors," said geophysicist Jay Melosh, a distinguished professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana. Melosh, who wasn't involved in the study, added that the findings "lead one to appreciate the role of air blasts in asteroid impacts as we saw in Chelyabinsk." The majority of the injuries in the Chelyabinsk impact were caused by broken glass sent flying into the faces of unknowing locals peering through their windows after the meteor's bright flash, he noted. The study's findings could help mitigate loss of human life, according to Rumpf. Small towns facing the impact of an asteroid 30 meters across (about 98 feet) may fare best by evacuating. However, an asteroid 200 meters wide (more than 650 feet) headed for a densely-populated city poses a greater risk and could warrant a more involved response, he said. "If only 10 people are affected, then maybe it's better to evacuate the area," Rumpf said. "But if 1,000,000 people are affected, it may be worthwhile to mount a deflection mission and push the asteroid out of the way." The American Geophysical Union is dedicated to advancing the Earth and space sciences for the benefit of humanity through its scholarly publications, conferences, and outreach programs. AGU is a not-for-profit, professional, scientific organization representing 60,000 members in 137 countries. Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and our other social media channels.


News Article | September 12, 2016
Site: www.fastcompany.com

The scientific community was abuzz recently when it was widely reported that Russian astronomers, along with an Italian researcher, had recorded a signal that was, as of then, unexplained. After looking into what exactly was detected—something from the solar system HD 164595 some 94 light-years away—the Russian astronomers issued a statement explaining that the signal was most likely not extraterrestrial. But organizations focusing on the search for alien life, such as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute and the Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) Institute, are continuing to look into the event. Part of the reason is because the signal was received over a year ago, on May 15, 2015, according to a SETI blog post. At the time, though, the discoverers didn’t immediately alert the SETI community, a breach of long-established practice and protocol. How did that breakdown happen? One reason SETI’s protocol likely sputtered is simple. Even though the drafted document has been written and revised for over two decades, the nine rules researchers are supposed to follow when they receive what they think may be an extraterrestrial signal don't necessarily conform to the dynamic nature of the field. Technologies are constantly changing, making it easier to see places we've never seen before, like surface of a comet, for instance. Scientists are still sorting out how best to act on the new data that's coming in all the time. SETI's rules are a set of defensive actions: if x happens, then y next. That makes them similar to the way measures are created in the cybersecurity sector; SETI’s rules exist to protect those involved but are usually carried out during exceptional circumstances. Security professionals generally have plans in place about what to do during an emergency, yet the reality never plays out the same as it did when conceptualized. Perhaps the most glaring example of this was the 2013 Target data breach, which exposed personal and payment information of some 40 million customers. The company had numerous security protocols in place—which, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, may have even detected the hack while it was happening. But when theoretical security planning was pushed into active procedure, several things went awry. While Target was alerted by federal law enforcement about two weeks after the hack, data breaches take an average of 146 days to be discovered, according to a report from Mandiant. The potential receipt of an alien signal likewise needs to be vetted, which can also chew up a considerable amount of time. Franck Marchis, a principal investigator at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute, explained that it's a way to ensure findings are real. Astronomers must "use the scientific method," he said. "Before making an announcement, you contact your colleagues," he explained. "You ask them to confirm that they also see the signal." Researchers are working around the globe scanning the skies for any sort of abnormality they can detect. Every so often, they find something that defies explanation. The reason SETI has prescribed rules in place is to give a semblance of order to the process of figuring out these unknowns. The scientists I spoke to described the protocol as a safeguard to make sure every signal is properly vetted. But as Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute who was part of the committee that crafted the document, told me, the protocol is just a prescription. "It’s recommended behavior," he said. "There’s no force of law." After years of meetings and reviews, the protocol has become widely accepted in the astronomy community. And according to Shostak, it’s a "valuable document." Both he and Marchis pointed to a signal SETI detected in 1997 that ended up being a false alarm. Though it looked promising, after colleagues weighed in, it became clear that the blip was in fact terrestrial. Still, it's not always a smooth experience. If a promising signal is detected, it creates excitement. A scientist emailing a few friends about the discovery could also notify the press. "It spreads very quickly," Shostak explained. Often a finding that has yet to be completely vetted by the entire astronomy community gets leaked. That is also reassuring, according to Shostak. He said that findings can get overlooked by the entities that matter—namely the government and the military. But the press has a way of garnering widespread interest that can then get the community involved in a healthy, global debate. The downside: "What’s actually going to happen is a very messy media story," Shostak said, "with conflicting reports." Yet methodological fissures still remain in the astronomy world. Earlier this year Fast Company reported on the widening difference of opinions when it comes to studying potentially alien lifeforms. While organizations like SETI focus on passively scanning the open skies for any external sign of life, other organizations like METI—Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence—believe it may be more useful to take a more proactive searching approach. Meanwhile, the protocol itself states: "No response to a signal or other evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence should be sent until appropriate international consultations have taken place." Despite this, the scientists I talked with maintained that nearly every expert in the field is at least aware of the protocol and should know how follow it. But in this case, the team that discovered this faraway blip waited for over a year before making any sort of noise. While this may seem odd, there's at least one possible explanation for the announcement’s timing. Claudio Maccone, the Italian researcher (who is also the chair of the International Academy of Astronautics Permanent SETI Committee) who first saw the signal, is scheduled to show his findings at the 67th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara later this month. Still, this doesn’t quite explain why the Russian astronomers already issued a statement saying it was most likely no extraterrestrial. Shostak told me that he asked Maccone why the team didn’t alert others about the finding last year. "He said they were shy," Shostak explained. "I don’t know what that means." Though the protocol has been updated again somewhat recently, it's clear that even the most high-tech scientists can be hampered by rudimentary organizational breakdowns. Do these perceived hiccups actually help push the science forward? Shostak sees the messiness as inevitable; Marchis points to just how important it is that others follow the protocol to truly corroborate findings. Either way, the truth is out there.


News Article | August 30, 2016
Site: news.yahoo.com

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - A curious radio signal picked up by a Russian telescope is probably not a transmission from an extraterrestrial civilization, but astronomers in California are taking a second look anyway, the SETI Institute said on Tuesday. A group of Russian astronomers last year detected what appeared to be a non-naturally occurring radio signal in the general location of a star system 94 light-years from Earth. Their findings emerged after Italian researcher Claudio Maccone, who chairs the International Academy of Astronautics committee on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, told colleagues of a presentation he heard about the signal, said Seth Shostak, a director at the SETI Institute. "I don't think we're taking it terribly seriously," Shostak said. "The Russians looked in this direction 39 times, and as best we can tell they found it once." Most likely, the radio signal was caused by terrestrial interference or a satellite, a common occurrence, Shostak told Reuters. If the Russians thought they had a serious signal from ET, he said, they also likely would have disclosed it sooner. "They didn't say anything about it for more than year. If we had found a signal, we'd check it out and call up other astronomers to check it out as well," Shostak said. Nevertheless, SETI astronomers have spent the last two nights using an array of radio telescopes in California to study the suspect star, HD 164595, which has one known planet in orbit. The planet is about the size of Neptune, but circles its star far closer than Mercury orbits the sun. HD 164595 could have other planets in orbit that are more suitably positioned for water, which is believed to be necessary for life. So far, though, astronomers have not detected any unusual signals from the star, Shostak said. "We have to be very careful not to get cynical about false alarms," he said. "It's easy to say 'Aw man, it's just another case of interference,' but that risks not paying attention when you should."


News Article | November 17, 2016
Site: news.yahoo.com

The science fiction movie "Arrival," which opened in theaters last weekend, poses tantalizing questions about how humans might make contact — and eventually communicate — with intelligent aliens. The much-hyped film has renewed people's interest in the search for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. But what would happen if humans really did make contact with an intelligent alien civilization? If E.T. calls, is there a plan? The answer is yes, and no, said astronomer Seth Shostak, who leads efforts to detect radio signals from extraterrestrial civilizations at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. "There are some protocols, but I think that's an unfortunate name, and it makes them sound more important than they are," Shostak told Live Science. [Greetings, Earthlings! 8 Ways Aliens Could Contact Us] In the 1990s, Shostak chaired a committee of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) that prepared a revised version of the "post-detection protocols" for researchers who watch for possible alien transmissions using radio telescopes, a field known as SETI (short for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). The protocols were first drawn up in the 1980s to help scientists in the United States and the Soviet Union share information about any potential SETI signals. But, Shostak explained, the SETI post-detection protocols are guidelines for governments and scientists, rather than a global action plan for dealing with alien contact. "They say, 'If you pick up a signal, check it out ... tell everybody ... and don't broadcast any replies without international consultation,' whatever that means," he said. "But that's all that the protocols say, and they have no force of law. The United Nations took a copy of the early protocols and put them in a file drawer somewhere, and that's as official as they ever got." In the movie "Arrival," spaceships land in several cities around the world, and a linguist (portrayed by actress Amy Adams) and a physicist (played by actor Jeremy Renner) are recruited as part of an international effort to try to communicate with the aliens and find out why they are here. In real life, apart from the protocol dictating that researchers should share news about SETI signals with other astronomers around the world, Shostak said he is not aware of any government-level plans or established procedures in case of an alien contact, whatever form it might take. And it seems there really are no "Men in Black," shadowy government investigators of UFO-lore, depicted in the comedy sci-fi movie series starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. "If [the government] could afford the 'Men in Black,' then they could afford to support SETI," Shostak joked. [7 Huge Misconceptions about Aliens] But the U.S. government has shown no interest in SETI research so far, he said. "It's not a government program, so they have nothing to do with it. I would love to see some interest from them, but I never have," he added. After one early SETI "false alarm," which eventually turned out to be a signal from a European research satellite, the only response was from journalists. "In 1997, we got a signal that looked pretty promising for most of the day. We thought it was possibly the real deal," Shostak said. "I kept waiting for the 'Men in Black' to show up — they didn't. I kept waiting for the Pentagon to call. I kept waiting for the White House to call. They didn't call. But The New York Times called." In a review of the science and speculations about extraterrestrials, published as "Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence and Civilization" in 1979, the author and scientist Robert Freitas described a purported military briefing in Washington, D.C., in 1950 that outlined potential U.S. military responses to alien contact. The supposed military plan, which became known as "Seven Phases to Contact," was first reported in a 1967 book on UFOs by the American broadcaster and UFO researcher Frank Edwards. But Shostak said he has seen no sign of any extraterrestrial action plan for U.S. government agencies or the military. "As far as I know, there's nothing, and I think I would have heard something because of the [SETI] false alarms," he said. While detecting an alien radio signal would be different from encountering spaceships that landed on Earth, Shostak doesn’t think protocols will play a big part in how we respond. "Some people asked me at a conference last week, 'What plan does the military have to deal with aliens should they land?' And I said, 'I don’t know … but to the best of my knowledge, they don't have a plan.'" Shostak noted that any aliens who could travel here in a spacecraft would need to be centuries or thousands of years more technologically advanced than humans are now, so it's almost impossible to imagine the consequences of contact between the species, let alone the thought of developing a plan to deal with them. [13 Ways to Hunt Intelligent Aliens] "It would be like the Neanderthals having a plan in case the U.S. Air Force showed up," he said. Although the aliens in "Arrival"helpfully travel to Earth in faster-than-light spaceships, willing and ready to talk, Shostak said a more likely "first contact" scenario would be the detection of a SETI radio signal, perhaps from a source hundreds or thousands of light-years away. That means it could take centuries for the aliens to receive any reply transmitted from Earth in an effort to communicate with them, he said. As such, there might not be any real hurry to decide what to say. And if E.T. does call, what should humans say in response? Some scientists, including British physicist Stephen Hawking, have expressed concern about "Active SETI" programs designed to transmit messages from Earth to any aliens that might be listening. Hawking warned of the potential threat posed by unknown extraterrestrials and their alien motivations. There's also the difficult matter of making the right first impression in any extraterrestrial chat, Shostak said. "I've been to several conferences where people discuss whether we should tell [aliens] all the bad things about humanity, or just the good things, and that sort of thing," he said. "But I think that is terribly overdrawn. To me, that would be like the indigenous people of Australia seeing Capt. Cook coming over the horizon in his ship, then saying, 'We're going to have a couple of conferences to discuss what we're going to talk to these guys about, and what language we'll use’ — [but] it doesn’t matter." Shostak pointed out that humans have already been broadcasting news into space for decades, in the form of television and radio signals, and so it's probably too late to keep quiet. "Those signals have been going out into space since the Second World War, so we've already told them we're here," he said. 7 Things Most Often Mistaken for UFOs Science Fact or Fiction? The Plausibility of 10 Sci-Fi Concepts Strange and Beautiful: Gallery of Old Sci-Fi Artwork


News Article | August 30, 2016
Site: phys.org

HD 164595, a solar system a few billion years older than the Sun but centered on a star of comparable size and brightness, is the purported source of a signal found with the RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya, at the northern foot of the Caucasus Mountains. This system is known to have one planet, a Neptune-sized world in such a very tight orbit, making it unattractive for life. However, there could be other planets in this system that are still undiscovered. The signal seems to have been discussed in a presentation given by several Russian astronomers as well as Italian researcher, Claudio Maccone, the chair of the International Academy of Astronautics Permanent SETI Committee. Maccone has recently sent an email to SETI scientists in which he describes this presentation, including the signal ascribed to star system HD 164595. Could it be a transmission from a technically proficient society? At this point, we can only consider what is known so far. This is a technical story, of course. First, is the detected signal really coming from the direction of HD 164595? The RATAN-600 is of an unusual design (a ring on the ground of diameter 577 meters), and has an unusual "beam shape" (the patch of sky to which it is sensitive). At the wavelength of the reported signal, 2.7 cm – which is equivalent to a frequency of 11 GHz – the beam is about 20 arcsec by 2 arcmin. In other words, it's a patch that's highly elongated in the north-south direction. The patch from which the signal seems to be coming agrees in the east-west direction (the narrow part of the beam) with HD 165695's sky coordinates, so that's the basis of the assumption by the discoverers that this is likely to be coming from that star system. But of course, that's not necessarily the case. Second is the question of the characteristics of the signal itself. The observations were made with a receiver having a bandwidth of 1 GHz. That's a billion times wider than the bandwidths traditionally used for SETI, and is 200 times wider than a television signal. The strength of the signal was 0.75 Janskys, or in common parlance, "weak." But was it weak only because of the distance of HD 164595? Perhaps it was weak because of "dilution" of the signal by the very wide bandwidth of the Russian receiver? Just as a pot pie, incorporating lots of ingredients, can make guessing the individual foodstuffs more difficult, a wide-bandwidth receiver can dilute the strength of relatively strong narrow-band signals. Now note that we can work backwards from the strength of the received signal to calculate how powerful an alien transmitter anywhere near HD 164595 would have to be. There are two interesting cases: (1) They decide to broadcast in all directions. Then the required power is 1020 watts, or 100 billion billion watts. That's hundreds of times more energy than all the sunlight falling on Earth, and would obviously require power sources far beyond any we have. (2) They aim their transmission at us. This will reduce the power requirement, but even if they are using an antenna the size of the 1000-foot Arecibo instrument, they would still need to wield more than a trillion watts, which is comparable to the total energy consumption of all humankind. Both scenarios require an effort far, far beyond what we ourselves could do, and it's hard to understand why anyone would want to target our solar system with a strong signal. This star system is so far away they won't have yet picked up any TV or radar that would tell them that we're here. The chance that this is truly a signal from extraterrestrials is not terribly promising, and the discoverers themselves apparently doubt that they've found ET. Nonetheless, one should check out all reasonable possibilities, given the importance of the subject. Consequently, the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) was swung in the direction of HD 164595 beginning on the evening of August 28. According to our scientists Jon Richards and Gerry Harp, it has so far not found any signal anywhere in the very large patch of sky covered by the ATA. However, we have not yet covered the full range of frequencies in which the signal could be located, if it's of far narrower bandwidth than the Russian 1 GHz receiver. We intend to completely cover this big swath of the radio dial in the next day or two. A detection, of course, would immediately spur the SETI and radio astronomy communities to do more follow-up observations. We will continue to monitor this star system with the array. One particularly noteworthy thing about this discovery is the fact that the signal was apparently observed in May, 2015 (it seems that this was the only time in 39 tries that they saw this signal). The discoverers didn't alert the SETI community to this find until now, which is not as expected. According to both practice and protocol, if a signal seems to be of deliberate and extraterrestrial origin, one of the first things to do is to get others to attempt confirming observations. That was not done in this case. So what's the bottom line? Could it be another society sending a signal our way? Of course, that's possible. However, there are many other plausible explanations for this claimed transmission – including terrestrial interference. Without a confirmation of this signal, we can only say that it's "interesting." Explore further: Analysis of the First Kepler SETI Observations


News Article | February 19, 2017
Site: motherboard.vice.com

In 1990, the International Academy of Astronautics published a special issue of their journal , Acta Astronautica, dedicated to the problem of what to do in the event that the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) detected an alien signal. These "post-detection protocols" as outlined in the IAA's Declaration of Principles in 1989 were inspired by increasingly rapid technological advances in the SETI field that made the likelihood of detecting a signal more likely than at any other point in the search's 30 year history. But the one technological development that its collaborators couldn't have anticipated was the rise of social media, which could seriously complicate the ability of government and private research institutions to control the social consequences resulting from the detection of an extraterrestrial message. "The IAA declaration of principles was based on using traditional forms of media, print, radio, TV, " Les Tennen, a space lawyer from Phoenix and member of the IAA's SETI Committee, told me. "Now we've got instantaneous communication where your phone will notify you of something important is happening, you don't even have to go looking for it. Millions, if not billions of people could be informed [of a potential ET signal] almost instantaneously." As detailed in the text of the original 1990 post-detection protocol, in the aftermath of the detection of a possible alien signal, the institution or individual responsible for the discovery should seek to verify that the signal is indeed artificial and extraterrestrial in origin before making any sort of public announcement. Moreover, before informing the public about the signal, the institution that discovered the signal should first inform other relevant institutions and government actors about the signal so that its veracity can be independently verified. If it turns out that the signal is indeed from aliens, the discovery can be made public via the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams (a news service run by the International Astronomical Union) and the discoverer should inform the Secretary General of the United Nations. Indeed, the legal strength of the post-detection protocol rests on the authority of Article XI of the UN Treaty on governing the exploration and use of outer space, which requires that countries "inform the secretary general of the United Nations as well as the public and the international scientific community…of the nature, conduct, locations and results" of the results of space science. Read More: An Astrolinguist Explains How to Talk to Aliens Ultimately, these protocols were designed as a sort of damage control, both to limit the spread of false positives as well as public hysteria. As detailed in the report from a workshop conducted by NASA following the launch of the High Resolution Microwave Survey in 1993 (the most powerful SETI search ever conducted at that point), "reactions to a detection can range from indifference…through millennial enthusiasm or catastrophist anxiety, to full scale paranoia…a few reactions would probably be irrationally extreme or even violent." NASA identified education as the most prominent factor in limiting the negative impacts of detecting an alien signal. In the days before the World Wide Web had risen to prominence, and long before the advent of social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, limiting false information (which could trigger public panic) was far simpler. All news would be channeled through a handful of official agencies, and only after rigorous peer review and analysis. Yet in the age of social media, rampant fake news, and Wikileaks, it's hard to imagine that news as big as the detection of the first message from an extraterrestrial civilization would be kept under wraps for long. This is problematic for a number of reasons. Not only could it spark public hysteria, but it could also lead toward government infighting like seen in Arrival or attempts to send a reply to aliens without a global consensus on what to say, or whether a message should be sent at all. The IAA post-detection protocol prohibits sending a response to ET without global consensus on the content of the message, and for that matter, SETI scientists are fiercely divided on whether sending a message to aliens is a smart move. For now, Tennen is focused on developing ideas that would update the IAA post-detection protocol for our connected world. Some of his suggestions include updating the declaration so that it enables a strict confidentiality among researchers involved in verifying that a received signal is extraterrestrial in origin, as well as establishing a central organization that would be responsible for managing all communications to the public related to the detection of a signal. Interestingly, some form of these protocols were included in the original 1989 Declaration of Principles, but were omitted from the 2010 revision. For example, the 1989 declaration said that the world should be informed of the signal through the International Astronaomical Union's Central Bureau of Astronomical Telegrams. On the other hand, the 2010 revision also established a Post-Detection Task Group under the IAA SETI committee, which would be responsible for dealing with "matters that may arise in the event of a confirmed signal." At last year's International Astronautical Congress in Mexico, Tennnen gave a presentation on the problems social media poses to the post-detection protocol and some of his proposed solutions. Tennen said he got a positive response from the members of the IAA SETI committee in the audience, who agreed that it was time to start seriously considering how to update the post-detection protocols. "The danger if this isn't updated is [in the event of a signal detection] the declaration will be disregarded because it will be obsolete," said Tennen. "There is not going to be time to have the kind of discussions and deliberations that the original protocols were envisioning." Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter .

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