Project Phoenix is the world's most sensitive and comprehensive search for extraterrestrial intelligence. It is an effort to uncover extraterrestrial civilizations by listening for radio signals that are either being deliberately beamed our way, or are inadvertently transmitted from another planet. Phoenix is the successor to the ambitious NASA SETI program that was cancelled by a budget-conscious Congress in 1993.
Phoenix began observations in February, 1995 using the Parkes 210 foot radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia. This is the largest radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere.
Phoenix doesn't scan the whole sky. Rather, it scrutinizes the vicinities of nearby, Sun-like stars. Such stars are most likely to sport long-lived planets capable of hosting life.
There are about one thousand stars targeted for observation by Project Phoenix. All are within 200 light-years distance.
Because millions of radio channels are simultaneously monitored by Phoenix, most of the "listening" is done by computers. Nonetheless, astronomers are required to make critical decisions about signals that look intriguing.
Phoenix looks for signals between 1,000 and 3,000 MHz. Signals that are at only one spot on the radio dial (narrow-band signals) are the "signature" of an intelligent transmission. The spectrum searched by Phoenix is broken into very narrow 1 Hz-wide channels, so two billion channels are examined for each target star.
Observations are currently being made using the 140 foot radio telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia.
By mid-1996, Phoenix had examined approximately one-third of the stars on its "hit list." So far, no clearly extraterrestrial transmissions have been found. But the faint whine that would betray an alien civilization might be heard tomorrow.
Harvard SETI home page - SETI at Harvard
Project Phoenix - Phoenix home page
The SETI League - organization dedicated to SETI
SETI Information - SETI Institute page, in-depth information
* This text was adapted from the Project Phoenix Home Page.