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STRATEGIES FOR SETI TARGET SELECTION

 

David W. Latham

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

60 Garden Street, Cambridge,

Massachusetts 02138

 

David R. Soderblom

Space Telescope Science Institute

3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore,

Maryland 21218

 

Abstract

The NASA High Resolution Microwave Survey consists of two complementary elements: a Sky Survey of the entire sky to a moderate level of sensitivity: and a Targeted Search of nearby stars, one at a time, to a much deeper level of sensitivity. In this paper we present a strategy for target selection and observing. The strategy has two goals: to improve the chances of successful detection of signals from technical civilizations that inhabit planets around solar-type stars, and to minimize the chances of missing signals from unexpected sites.

For the main Targeted Search survey of approximately 1000 nearby solar-type stars, we argue that the selection criteria should be heavily biased by what we know about the origin and evolution of life here on earth. We propose that observations of stars with stellar companions orbiting near the habitable zone should be de-emphasized, because such companions would prevent the formation of habitable planets. We also propose that observations of stars younger than about three billion years should be de-emphasized in favor of older stars, because our own technical civilization took longer than three billion years to evolve here on earth.

To provide the information needed for the preparation of specific target lists, we have undertaken an inventory of a large sample of solar-type stars out to a distance of 60 pc, with the goal of characterizing the relevant astrophysical properties of these stars, especially their ages and companionship. To complement the main survey, we propose that a modest sample of the nearest stars be observed without any selection biases whatsoever. Finally, we argue that efforts to identify stars with planetary systems should be expanded. If found, such systems should receive intensive scrutiny.

8 Pages

 

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