The hunt for other planets in the universe is going full steam ahead with thousands of planets having being found in orbit around distant suns. Telescopes and technology are progressing at a breakneck pace allowing us to probe the light from these distant worlds for traces of gases that might signify life. Probes in our own solar system are busy looking for the signs and signatures of life.
In addition a number of earth based radio telescopes are getting in on the act, gathering data from far away stars in the hope of finding an artificial signal, which would mean extra terrestrial intelligence. The volume of data gathered is staggering and the amount of computer power needed to crunch the data is also staggering. But here lies an opportunity for citizen scientists with a computer and an internet connection to get involved.
SETI@home is an internet based, public volunteer programme that analyses radio signals in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). It has been running since 1999 and involves the user downloading a small software programme that runs as a screensaver when the computer is not being used. The programme receives chunks of data recorded from radio telescopes and analyses them for artificial signals. The results are then sent back to base and a new piece of data downloaded.
The programme run by The University of California, Berkeley has millions of users worldwide, but so far hasn’t turned up any signals. However, there is no reason to be discouraged as it has only covered about 2 % of the sky so far. The get involved simply google SETI@home and start looking for aliens from the comfort of your sitting room.