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Is anyone there? UK scientists launch hunt for alien intelligence.

Eleven UK institutions plan to launch a collaborative effort to comb the universe for messages from intelligent alien life.

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This undated handout artist concept provided by Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics shows the newly discovered planets named Kepler-62e and -f, which are in the right place and are the right size for potential life.

Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics/AP

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Scientists from 11 British institutions are partnering in a project to comb the universe for signs of alien intelligence, the latest in a mushrooming effort to continue the ET hunt, even as government funding for those projects dwindles.

The team, called the UK Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Research Network, held its first formal session on Friday at the annual National Astronomy Meeting, at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. It is asking for $1.5 million a year from donors to operate a network of seven telescopes called eMerlin that will be used to analyze radio waves received from outer space, in hopes of deciphering a message from the stars, the BBC said.

“There is a small but active group of SETI researchers in the UK, who need a forum to discuss their work,” wrote the scientists in their abstract for the conference. “We also hope that by exposing the whole range of UK SETI activities to the community, it will promote a wider understanding of, and activity in, this subject, and the justifications for the allocation of a small fraction of the UK astronomy budget.”

The eMerlin telescopes are presently used to collect data from cosmic objects like pulsar stars. The new funding would be put toward sifting through that information for extraterrestrial intelligence, as well as toward allowing scientists to pivot the telescopes towards targeted, potentially lucrative regions where planets are thought to orbit stars in the habitable zone – the sweet spot where the planet is neither too far from the sun, freezing its water, nor too close to the sun, boiling its water.

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