Finding Aliens With a Continent-Spanning Observatory

LOFAR, a network of 44 stations of antennae spread across Europe, is only half complete, yet it's already giving researchers unparalleled images of distant black holes. Soon it'll be used by SETI to search for aliens on rarely-explored superlow frequencies.

LOFAR's far flung stations independently collect data that is then composited by a supercomputer. The result: unprecedentedly high resolution images of the low end of the magnetic spectrum. Though only 20 or so of its eventual 44 outposts have been built, LOFAR has already given astronomers plenty to look at, like the above image of packs of electrons escaping from a black hole.

Even more exciting is what it has on the horizon. In a recent announcement of their upcoming observational schedule, LOFAR said that SETI will be using the system to scan the skies for extraterrestrial radio activity on frequencies that have largely gone unexplored until now.

The rest of LOFAR's stations are slated for completion by the end of the summer. If we're lucky, we could be ringing in 2011 with the sweet sounds of martian radio. [Astron via Discovery]