Massive Hunt for Extraterrestrial Life Completed: What Astronomers Found in Search of 10 Million Star Systems for Alien Technology

Murchison Widefield Array Radio Telescope Night

The Murchison Widefield Array radio telescope, a portion of which is pictured here, was used to explore hundreds of times more broadly than any previous search for extraterrestrial life. Credit: Goldsmith/MWA Collaboration/Curtin University

A radio telescope in outback Western Australia has completed the deepest and broadest search at low frequencies for alien technologies, scanning a patch of sky known to include at least 10 million stars.

Astronomers used the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope to explore hundreds of times more broadly than any previous search for extraterrestrial life.

The study, published this month in Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, observed the sky around the Vela constellation. But in this part of the Universe at least, it appears other civilizations are elusive, if they exist.

The research was conducted by CSIRO astronomer Dr. Chenoa Tremblay and Professor Steven Tingay, from the Curtin University node of the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR).

MWA Antenna

Dipole antennas of the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope in Mid West Western Australia. Credit: Dragonfly Media

Dr. Tremblay said the telescope was searching for powerful radio emissions at frequencies similar to FM radio frequencies, which could indicate the presence of an intelligent source.

These possible emissions are known as ‘technosignatures.’

“The MWA is a unique telescope, with an extraordinarily wide field-of-view that allows us to observe millions of stars simultaneously,” she said.

“We observed the sky around the constellation of Vela for 17 hours, looking more than 100 times broader and deeper than ever before.

“With this dataset, we found no technosignatures—no sign of intelligent life.”

MWA Tile 107 Outlier

Tile 107, or “the Outlier” as it is known, is one of 256 tiles of the MWA, located 1.5km from the core of the telescope. Lighting the tile and the ancient landscape is the Moon. Credit: Pete Wheeler, ICRAR

Professor Tingay said even though this was the broadest search yet, he was not shocked by the result.

“As Douglas Adams noted in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, ‘space is big, really big’.”

“And even though this was a really big study, the amount of space we looked at was the equivalent of trying to find something in the Earth’s oceans but only searching a volume of water equivalent to a large backyard swimming pool.

“Since we can’t really assume how possible alien civilizations might utilize technology, we need to search in many different ways. Using radio telescopes, we can explore an eight-dimensional search space.

“Although there is a long way to go in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, telescopes such as the MWA will continue to push the limits—we have to keep looking.”

The MWA is a precursor for the instrument that comes next, the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), a 1.7 billion Euro observatory with telescopes in Western Australia and South Africa. To continue the Douglas Adams references, think of the MWA as the city-sized Deep Thought and the SKA as its successor: the Earth.

A time-lapse sequence of more than 1,000 images captured at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Mid West WA. Tile 107, or “the Outlier” as it is known, is one of 256 tiles of this Square Kilometer Array precursor instrument located 1.5km from the core of the telescope. Lighting the tile and the ancient landscape is the Moon. Credit: Pete Wheeler / ICRAR

“Due to the increased sensitivity, the SKA low-frequency telescope to be built in Western Australia will be capable of detecting Earth-like radio signals from relatively nearby planetary systems,” said Professor Tingay.

“With the SKA, we’ll be able to survey billions of star systems, seeking technosignatures in an astronomical ocean of other worlds.”

The MWA is located at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, a remote and radio quiet astronomical facility established and maintained by CSIRO—Australia’s national science agency. The SKA will be built at the same location but will be 50 times more sensitive and will be able to undertake much deeper SETI experiments.

Reference: ‘”A SETI Survey of the Vela Region using the Murchison Widefield Array: Orders of Magnitude Expansion in Search Space” by C. D. Tremblay and S. J. Tingay, 8 September 2020, Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia (PASA).
DOI: 10.1017/pasa.2020.27


A consortium of partner institutions from seven countries (Australia, USA, India, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, and China) financed the development, construction, commissioning, and operations of the Murchison Widefield Array radio telescope. The consortium is led by Curtin University.

We acknowledge the Wajarri Yamatji as the traditional owners of the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory site.

We acknowledge the Pawsey Supercomputing Center which is supported by the Western Australian and Australian Governments.

22 Comments on "Massive Hunt for Extraterrestrial Life Completed: What Astronomers Found in Search of 10 Million Star Systems for Alien Technology"

  1. if we can’t fine them, how come they found us? They’re here and some of us have seen their aerial carft

    • That’s because they’re not here and nobody has seen any alien life on Earth. People have been imagining, fantasising, and talking nonsense for hundreds of thousands of years. Gods, monsters, aliens, and other fairytales.. are nothing more than literature.

    • Their carft? What a maroon

  2. It is a radically different hypothesis to what normally is talked about.

    For starters, to this day, Drake and Fermi STILL do not play well together.

    The Drake equation is a probabilistic argument used to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy.

    The Fermi paradox, is the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence for extraterrestrial civilizations (such as some optimistic estimates for the Drake equation).

    Remember when they discovered anomalous methane on Mars, and hyped that all up? Even though the scientists in charge said in their report, “While methane is a sign of life on Earth, its presence on Mars doesn’t necessarily constitute evidence of something similar on the Red Planet.”

    So here we go again. Now with Venus. Phosphine is a bio-signature, and can be produced by NON-living things. ie, by geo-chemistry and photo-chemistry. Light interacting with chemicals.

    The hype continue$, contrary to what the authors say in their paper: “Even if confirmed, we emphasize that the detection of PH3, is not robust evidence for life, only for anomalous and unexplained chemistry.”

    I personally believe that no place else will life be found in the Universe, than on Earth. You are here for a specific purpose. This place is truly like ‘Flatland’, compared to where the dimensionally greater ‘you’ resides.

    In other words, try to explain a Orange to a ‘Flatlander’, who is watching it pass through their 2D realm!

    Life / consciousness originates in a much greater dimension, where you are the only operant power. And, all that you behold here that’s seemingly ‘separate’, in actuality, begins in you, and ends in you.

    So, as vast and amazing as this 3D reality is, it is only a mere ‘shadow world’ of where you originate from.

    For, you are presently asleep in a greater dimensional storehouse of your being, dreaming all of the lovely, as well as all of the horrors of this world. Your life is truly the light of the world! Because you are the eternal dreamer, dreaming these non-eternal dreams.

    Man will continue to search for life elsewhere, and will eventually get it all out of his system. He will seek in vain, because that’s not the way life works. This is a very rare Earth, and life elsewhere in the cosmos is nonexistent, contrary to what the Syfy channel is telling us.

    Man wants to desperately prove the Fermi Paradox wrong, and continues to blast off to other planets in search of this mystery called life. It’s quite entertaining, to say the least. 

    But, how does life originate from inanimate matter?

    Doesn’t life ALWAYS need to come from a previous life?

    Or. could it be that only the right ‘soup’ of molecules need to be present? Throw in a few lightning bolts, and vuala, LIFE??

    Maybe a planet just needs to be in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ around its star, so that there’s liquid water?

    No, life doesn’t ‘originate’, it ‘appears’, and comes here from a vastly greater dimensional storehouse of your being.

    You cannot leave consciousness out of the equation of how life ‘originates’. For there is only one consciousness involved here, not many, as the illusion of ‘3D reality’ seems to demonstrate.

    Just as in a dream, even though there appears to be many people, there is always only one being, one observer involved…YOU!

  3. Absolutely flawed, why? Because extraterrestrial life might not communicate how we do, or only communicate through physical actions or telepathy, essential they failed science because there no definite proof or soli fact, just audio..

    • Louis Pasteur already proved life cannot arise from non living matter. Life only comes from Life….period you can dream all you want…however Life will still only come from Life . That being said ….if we trace our history back , science tells us we all are related and eventually will come to the point where there is one man and one woman. If this is the case , who or what put this man and this woman here? The odds of life arising once for someone who believes in spontaneous generation are by chance , not only would chance have had to create the male …chance would have had to create female also in order to begin reproduction. Life only comes from life …..something put us here I call this something God

  4. If humanity and a similarly advanced civilization only 1 000 lt/or away were looking directly at each other with this type of detection apparatus, niether would see anything. To be seen by us, it is necessary for a sufficiently advanced civilization to have existed at a particular moment in the distant past, that moment depending upon how far away the system is from us. That would dramatically decrease the chance of finding anything.

  5. Darin selby ID just like to say that you sound like all the polytheistic religions and scientists in the world. Oh we dont see any evidence of this so it must be false. Yeah okay🙄. Just you narrow minded people to dismiss this cause it Doesnt have any evidence. Who needs evidence to know that theres more in this universe than a greedy primitive savage and envious species? You really think that we are the only life in a universe more than 13 billion light years across? I just gotta ask are you stupid? There are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Just set aside your faith and science and think for a second. Also if they found evidence of life on venus as microorganisms whose to say that life couldn’t have already evolved from the planet and spread out or possibly died out. The planet Venus used to be like earth till some cataclysmic event sent it into a runaway greenhouse effect. So there we have evidence of an earth like planet in our own solar system. So why shouldn’t life exist elsewhere? Just cause it doesn’t want to be seen or interact with you doesn’t mean its not there. There are always stories or myths of life on planets in this solar system from before time began so why is it impossible to think they could be right? I get annoyed at the small minded people who think life Doesnt exist elsewhere simply because the government tells you that.

  6. Mabey they use a far more advance of far different method to communicate? Or maybe they don’t need technology. What if they live in the vacumes of space? We can only look for what we understand, and a species we understand so little in a vast space.

  7. What a comment David, just be quiet.

  8. They don’t want to talk to us. We are a backward race. They are content to visit earth and observe us.

  9. Why you looking in Vela? Try Zeta Reticuli, Pleiades, Orion, Andromeda and Altair star systems like Canadian Defence Minister Paul Hellyer told congress where aliens are from. Even Bernard’s Star has five planets claimed by Charles Hall who interacted with the Tall Whites in the Nevada desert. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope found hundreds of stars with planets. It means our solar system is not unique. Let’s investigate the eight planets around Trappist-1. How arrogant is humanity to think we are the only intelligent life in the galaxy.

  10. The fact is, any alien civilisation trying to detect us, unless they are within a radius of about 100ly, they will can’t and will “think” we don’t exist. Another problem is, the signals, because of the inverse square law, even within the 100ly radius, will be so weak it will be undetectable!…Isn’t it so?

  11. This only proves that there are no powerfull radio signals at certain FM frequencies. There yet can be life, maybe micro biological life.

  12. Yes indeed why search in Vela? I agree with Leadz. What a waste of money when written history and world wide handed down historical records point exactly where to look. The primitive Dogon tribe have long held they were visited and instructed by the amphibious Nommo from the Sirius star system and had knowledge of the orbits and physical characteristics of Sirius B long before science discovered it. Go point your radio telescopes there and end the search for ET intelligently. The Hopi and Anasazi have been talking about visitors from the Pleiades and many megalithic structures on earth are aligned to duplicate Orion’s Belt, the Pleiades and the Cygnus constellation. That’s where I would look.
    Also for the narrow minded that think life exists no where else in this vast universe. Just think of the billions of life forms on this planet. In every nook and cranny! There are billions of planets out there in Goldilocks zones and water/ice is extremely common so life is teeming out there we just haven’t had the technology to go very far off our own little dot. Finally the are thousands of artifacts and depictions around the world of other worldly beings on cave paintings, extensive writings on cuniform tablets, the Bible, the vedas, the Maharabata, depictions and descriptions of space craft and ufos by governments, pilots, etc. what rocks have you been living under all these decades is all I can ask? It baffles me how small some human minds can be. Thankfully the evolution of our species does not depend on small minds such as those! Nuff said!! And I rest my case!

  13. There can be no doubt that alien life exists in the vastness of space, yet the chances of that life being intelligent and technologically capable are extremely remote. Besides, the likelihood is that any civilisation established by alien life would be so self-obsessed and distracted by fantasies of Gods and various other deities that they’d never think to look for life beyond their own clouds, let alone build detectable technologies that might penetrate beyond them.

    The result, in the context of the likelihood of life beyond earth, is meaningless.

    In truth, I think it is worthless spending any more money on these searches until we have developed our capacity as a space-travelling species.

  14. My nuts itch.

  15. It’s silly to assume that in the 92bly(and expanding) spread of the known universe our little blue dot is the only one capable of having a so called intelligent life(figure of speech)!
    It’s our own narrow-minded primitive way of thinking that gives us the audacity of thinking about intelligent life being unique to this puny planet we are currently occupying.
    We have only just began looking around. Funny thing is that as narrow-minded as we are, we are still willing to look around (despite our arrogance) to see what is out there. I must admit that even with all our short mindedness we are still doing the search, which is how you eventually discover new things!

  16. @ David
    You say you get annoyed at small minded people why ? Because such “small
    minded” people as you choose to say, believe in their own way instead of yours when you have no evidence to base your claims from ? People have a right to believe what they want just as you do….but you dont see anyone calling you degrading names do you? Trying to impose your will and your ideas on others by calling them small minded when you have nothing to back your claims up does not work …..nor will it ever. The size of the universe is mind boggling. To think that it has been expanding at a rate of 41.6 miles per second ever since I was born not to mention all the time before that is too much to comprehend. Yes I agree with you that its huge and it would seem logical to think there is life out there ……all these other people are saying is up til this point there has been no proof of it , However as you say there is life elsewhere in the universe …..there is also the very real possibility that there is not also . I’m just saying

    • The ants also may not believe existence of other ants when they live in a island but some other biological life (us himans) knows that there is a lots of ants in other islands too. Same here that you may believe that there is no existence of other life out of this planet but truth is that you (us himans) dont even seen all biological life in this planet as for fact that we only been able to explore 5% of ocean and years pass by… and we still discover new spices in ocean. I am sure that there is extraterrestrial life put there and in fact im sure they more intelligent than us as they know about our existence but we never seen there existence, and why other intelligent biological life will show them self to us ( humans) who destroy each other for money and power?

  17. Thats because intelligent life doesn’t operate radio frequencies. Magnetic fields is how they communicate… Science is really starting to piss me off all this looking in one direction bulls#!t. Like seismologists only looking at the earth for earthquakes… Really!? Come on!!!

  18. At the distances this particular search was looking for a signal, what transmitter power levels would have been required for detection? I hear about these SETI searches taking place, but none of the articles specify the minimum broadcast power required for reliable detection. If it takes Terawatts of power in a focused beam,that would imply a deliberate message is being sent. If we are trying to eavesdrop on an omnidirectional signal at a power level of 50-1000 kW (radio and broadcast TV) I don’t think this is possible at present. Unless the source is close by, say tens of LY. Even then the antenna array may be the size of a small country.

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