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SETI@home users get to look again at candidate signals from ET

– Three months ago, SETI@home scientists tuned the Arecibo radio telescope to 216 cosmic radio sources that had been identified by users of the screensaver as candidate signals from extraterrestrial civilizations.

While a quick, real-time analysis of the re-observed radio sources did not turn up any signs of alien intelligence, SETI@home users will get the chance this month to analyze the signals more thoroughly.

"This is the start of a new phase of SETI@home," said SETI@home project director David Anderson. "The data gives us our best chance so far of finding ET."

The signals selected for reobservation in March were the cream of the many signals analyzed over nearly four years by millions of SETI@home users around the world. These users donated their idle computer time to crunching data from radio observations from the Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico, searching for purposeful patterns and thus possible indications of intelligent life.

"We got evidence for these candidates from participants identifying them the first time, and now we're going to look again," said project scientist Dan Werthimer.

The so-called "stellar countdown" produced about 24 hours of data between March 18 and 14, which have been broken down into 250,000 work units. Each unit is sent for analysis to three separate users, which means that about 750,000 reobservation work units will be sent out to SETI@home users, mixed in with ordinary work units. Since June 3, about half of the data has been sent out for this more subtle analysis, Werthimer said, while the remainder should be fully distributed by June 20. After the data has been returned, typically a couple of days later, the SETI@home scientists will do an intense analysis in search of promising sources.

"It will take several months before we know if our participants found anything," he said. "It's a long shot, but worth the effort."

In project is funded by The Planetary Society, Sun Microsystems, the University of California, Quantum Corp., Fujifilm Computer Products and Network Appliance.