Giant telescope could watch alien TV

How the main dishes of the SKA telescope will look.

Image credit: SKA Organisation/Swinburne Astronomy Productions

Space scientists got the go-ahead yesterday for a radio telescope so powerful that it will be able to tune into alien TV. A network of new dishes and antennas across southern Africa and Australia will combine to work as an ultra-sensitive ear on the Universe.

The £1.2 billion telescope will be the world’s largest and equivalent to a single dish one square kilometre in size – hence its name the Square Kilometre Array.

Headquarters for the mega-telescope, which “sees” radio waves, will be in the UK at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, which is famous for its giant Lovell dish.

Tim O’Brien, Associate Director of Jodrell Bank, said yesterday: “The SKA will be 50 times more powerful than existing radio telescopes which is a huge leap in sensitivity, equivalent to 200 like that at Jodrell Bank.

“Though not a primary science goal, detecting signals from alien civilisations is a very interesting possibility. We don’t, of course, know if there are extraterrestrials out there or if they are sending out radio waves.

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