The biggest news to come from the SETI science meeting this week was the progress on the upcoming Green Bank Telescope "GBT" Observations:
It’s almost like Christmas here at SETI @ Berkeley. Meaning: the fancy new machine we are planning to use for the Kepler observations has been ordered! Though it was officially commissioned for engineering purposes at UC Berkeley, we’re going to re-purpose it for a bit to take some SETI data in the Kepler field using the Greenbank telescope in West Virginia. Furthermore, Andrew got some code that can read-in the data that GUPPI (the pulsar machine at GBT) spits out. Now that we have some code to work with/from, we can write a 2-bit quantizer code that allows us to read out the data from our new machine, and finally get underway with the Kepler field observations at the Green Bank Telescope! Andrew is just about ready to make the trip out to Greenbank to start the observations. In about a week, we could potentially be observing the Kepler field.
Speaking of observing the Kepler field, the decision on how the observations should be done is as follows: we have 90 targets to look at for about 8 min/piece (including 30 seconds for slew time) as well as 12 hours of raster scanning of the entire field, which will allow us to look for Gaussians. The latest paper claims there are 54 habitable planets in the Kepler field, though it remains yet to be seen if any of them are home to life.
Within the 7 minutes and 30 seconds or so we spend looking at individual candidates, we should spend some time observing off the actual source. The off source-observations give us something to conpare the on-source observations to. The idea is that even though we loose sensitivity by observing off-source, we can be more confident if the thing we are actually seeing is real. For example, if we just stare at a target for 7 minutes and see something bright for 2 minutes but then never see it again—it is really hard to make a conclusive statement over whether or not it is just interference. A robust way to reject RFI is important, and that is exactly what the off-source observations will give us.
Look forward to more updates on the Kepler Field observations!