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The 305-metre Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico
The 305-metre Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico showing the Gregorian secondary reflector which is moved across the support structure to track the target star across the sky. Photo: Tony A

The Pioneer 10 signal
The Pioneer 10 signal. To test that the complete receiving system is operating as expected, each night a search is made for the signal from the Pioneer 10 space probe. Launched in 1972, this is now 6.5 billion miles from Earth but is still transmitting a signal of a few watts. The Pioneer 10 signal would not be seen in a single scan, but shows up as a drifting signal when many scans are plotted together as shown above.


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SETI: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Project Phoenix

The Lovell Telescope has joined with the 305-metre Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico to take part in what is the most sensitive and comprehensive search yet undertaken for possible radio signals from extraterrestrial civilisations beyond our Solar System. The 5 year research programme, project Phoenix, is led by the privately-funded SETI Institute. The aim is to observe 1000 of the nearest Sun-like star systems. It is hoped that an advanced civilisation might exist on a planet within one of these systems. Observations are scheduled for 40 nights each year.


The Arecibo Telescope uses a 56-million channel receiver to make initial signal detections. Information about those signals which are not in the data bank of known terrestrial signals, are passed on to two further sets of identical receivers at Arecibo and Jodrell Bank. Due to the rotation of the Earth, and the great distance separating Jodrell Bank and Arecibo, a signal from outside the Solar System will have precisely calculable differences when observed at the two observatories. This allows an extraterrestrial signal, should one be found, to be distinguished from those originating on, or near, the Earth.

For more on SETI research see the JBO SETI research pages

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