The SETI Institute is exploring a collaboration with the Arecibo Observatory (AO) in Puerto Rico to deploy an Antonio Feed in AO’s Gregorian dome to conduct SETI observations.
The feed is a radio telescope’s way of converting a radio wave into an electrical signal. The Antonio Feed is special in that it can detect radio waves at a very broad range of frequencies – 200 to 15,000 MHz. This range covers the entire "terrestrial microwave window," a region of radio frequencies where both the Earth's atmosphere and the cosmic background are quiet and transparent. The result is like listening to a multitude of radio stations at the same time (which doesn't sound pleasing, but it allows you to monitor traffic, weather, news, and the Top 10 all at the same time!). Along with the multiple frequencies, the Antonio Feed operates at a lower temperature than previous designs, and lower temperatures mean lower noise (less static), making much fainter signals detectable.
The AO is a radio telescope that, with its 1,000-foot aperture, was the largest in the world for more than 50 years. The SETI Institute and AO have a long history of collaboration. Before Congress defunded the NASA SETI program in 1992, the SETI Institute was using the AO to conduct SETI experiments. Later, when the SETI Institute was able to fund Project Phoenix through private donations, research was conducted at AO, among other observatories.
And, those familiar with the classic film Contact, will recognize AO from scenes where the main character, Ellie Arroway (played by Jodie Foster and inspired by SETI Institute co-founder Jill Tarter) conducted SETI projects.
We will keep you updated on the status of this possible collaboration!