Friday 7th May 2021 at 7.30 pm on Zoom

The Search for Advanced Extraterrestrial Civilisations via Anomalies in Astronomical Survey Data

Prof. Michael (Mike) Garrett
University of Manchester
Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics

Image credit: NASA

Energy-intensive civilisations are likely to have a significant impact on both their local and extended environments – we already see evidence for this here on Earth. Advanced technical civilisations may reveal themselves to other civilisations by introducing anomalous signals into astronomical data. Artificial radio signals are perhaps the best known example but there are also many other possibilities e.g. excess infra-red emission due to waste heat losses. I will present a non-exhaustive description of some of the main anomalies or “techno-signatures” that astronomers around the world are currently seeking, with a focus on the recent work being conducted at Manchester and the Breakthrough Listen initiative (BLI). BLI has recently produced its first candidate signal – BLC1 – I will  discuss this new development and the future role long-baseline interferometry can play in follow-up observations and future surveys. I will also talk about the need for astronomers to broaden our horizons – to open up our minds to new possibilities and concede that there is a lot about the Universe we do not understand. As the universe continues to evolve for billions of years to come, we speculate on whether other, non-biological forms of intelligence and consciousness, may be out there awaiting discovery.

Biography of the speaker

Prof. Michael (Mike) Garrett is the inaugural Sir Bernard Lovell Chair of Astrophysics at the University of Manchester, and Director of Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics ( He is a former director of JIVE (2003-2007) and Director General of ASTRON (2007-2016) in the Netherlands. He did his first degree at the University of Glasgow (1986) and received a Ph.D. from Manchester in 1990. 

As General Director of ASTRON, Garrett was responsible for the final design, construction, commissioning, and operational phase of the 150M€ LOFAR telescope.  He also helped define the design of the Square Kilometre Array telescope, and previously coordinated several large European projects (EXPReS, RadioNet, and ASTERICS). Garrett’s scientific interests range from studies of compact cosmic objects in our own Galaxy to investigations of high-redshift systems in the early Universe. 

Garrett has a significant interest in SETI (Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence) and related public outreach activities. He is currently co-chair of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) SETI Permanent Committee, and serves on the Scientific Advisory Boards of the SETI Institute and Breakthrough Listen Initiative. In 2018, he developed a new multi-disciplinary course at the University of Manchester – Are we Alone? The course regularly attracts 150 students/yr.

The recording of this lecture is now freely available on the Virtual BRLSI YouTube channel. Please go the following link to view.