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Targeted and All-Sky Search for Nanosecond Optical Pulses at Harvard-Smithsonian

By Paul Horowitza, Charles Coldwella and Andrew Howarda

Abstract

We have built a system to detect nanosecond pulsed optical signals from a target list of some 10,000 Sun-like stars, and have made some 20,000 observations during its two years of operation. A beamsplitter feeds a pair of hybrid avalanche photodetectors at the focal plane of the 1.5m Cassegrain at the Harvard/Smithsonian Oak Ridge Observatory (Agassiz Station), with a coincidence triggering measurement of pulse width and intensity at subnanosecond resolution. A flexible web-enabled database, combined with mercifully low background coincidence rates (∼1 event per night), makes it easy to sort through far-flung data in search of repeated events from any candidate star. An identical system will soon begin observations, synchronized with ours, at the 0.9 m Cassegrain at Princeton University. These will permit unambiguous identification of even a solitary pulse. We are planning an all-sky search for optical pulses, using a dedicated 1.8 m f/2.4 spherical glass light bucket and an array of pixelated photomultipliers deployed in a pair of matched focal planes. The sky pixels, 1.5arcmin square, tessellate a 1. ◦ 6 × 0. ◦ 2 patch of sky in transit mode, covering the Northern sky in ∼150 clear nights. Fast custom IC electronics will monitor corresponding pixels for coincident optical pulses of nanosecond timescale, triggering storage of a digitized waveform of the light flash

Topics: Optical SETI, interstellar communication
Year: 2011
OAI identifier: oai:CiteSeerX.psu:10.1.1.184.576
Provided by: CiteSeerX
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