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SETI hibernates search for alien life project

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SETI has announced plans to ‘hibernate’ its search for alien life project SETI@home, after 21 years, to focus on completing its back-end analysis of the data collected.

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence is a series of projects that scrub the background noise of the universe to look for alien life. And one of the most famous ventures under the name was SETI@home, in which members of the public were encouraged to donate their idle computing time to the project.

In the platform, volunteers contributed their CPU resources to analyse radio data from the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico and the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia for signs of potential extraterrestrial intelligence in the universe.

Run by the Berkeley SETI Research Center based at the University of California (UC), Berkeley since 1999, the CPU resources donated by people all over the world are used to process small chunks of data, or “jobs”, for interesting radio transmissions or anomalies. This data collected is then sent back to the researchers for analysis.

In an announcement posted on Twitter, however, the project team stated that they will no longer send data to SETI@home clients starting on 31 March 2020 as they have reached a “point of diminishing returns”.

Fundamentally, so much information has already been processed, its analysts have said it’s now time to sift through it and look for any sort of conclusion. "We need to focus on completing the back-end analysis of the results we already have.” This will also be done in order to publish a scientific paper on the findings collated over the past 21 years.

The news announcement, however, also said that the platform is “not disappearing” completely, and its website and message boards will continue to operate.

“We hope that other UC Berkeley astronomers will find uses for the huge computing capabilities of SETI@home for SETI or related areas like cosmology and pulsar research. If this happens, SETI@home will start distributing work again,” it added.

Its project members have encouraged users that are currently running SETI@home on their computers to attach to other BOINC-based projects such as Radioactive@Home, which focuses on radiation levels across the globe, and the World Community Grid, which diverges into multiple areas such as medical, environmental and other humanitarian research.

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