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An All-Sky Commensal SETI Survey with the Very Large Array

Presentation #220.03 in the session SETI, Technosignatures, and the Search for Life.

Published onJul 01, 2023
An All-Sky Commensal SETI Survey with the Very Large Array

The search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI) addresses one of the most profound questions in science: Are we alone in this universe as an intelligent species? This search process is extremely challenging as it requires exploring the vast SETI parameter space in terms of time, location, frequency and duty cycle. Most of the past ETI searches focused on using large single dish telescopes and they have covered only a tiny fraction of this parameter space. Interferometers offer certain advantages over large single dish telescopes in terms of larger sky coverage and faster survey speed. In order to maximize the detectability of the ETI signals, the SETI Institute and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in collaboration have developed a new commensal observing system with the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope in New Mexico. This new system is known as COSMIC - Commensal Open Source Multimode Interferometer Cluster. With COSMIC, the data streams from the VLA antennas are split before going to the VLA correlator and an independent copy is sent to the COSMIC compute cluster. This architecture will enable COSMIC continuous access to the VLA data streams and the ability to conduct one of the most comprehensive searches for extra-terrestrial life. The first phase of COSMIC is completed and the system is currently collecting the data along with the third epoch of the VLA Sky Survey (VLASS) started in January 2023. The VLASS is a fast sky scan survey covering the entire Northern hemisphere above a declination of -40 degrees at S band. The data collected from VLASS survey is used to commission the observing system and conduct its first SETI survey. With VLASS, COSMIC will observe several million stars within the first 2 years of operation with a sensitivity good enough to detect an Arecibo-like transmitter at a distance of 25 pc from Earth. In this talk, we will focus on the recent developments of COSMIC and the status of the ongoing science commissioning and the SETI survey.

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