Antenna concepts for interstellar search systems


  • Roy P. Basler,

  • George L. Johnson,

  • Richard R. Vondrak


An evaluation is made of microwave receiving systems designed to search for signals from extraterrestrial intelligence. Specific design concepts are analyzed parametrically to determine whether the optimum antenna system location is on earth, in space, or on the moon. Parameters considered include the hypothesized number of transmitting civilizations, the number of stars that must be searched to give any desired probability of receiving a signal, the antenna collecting area, the search time, the search range, and the cost. This analysis suggests that (1) search systems based on the moon are not cost-competitive, (2) if the search is extended only a few hundred light years from the earth, a Cyclops-type array on earth may be the most cost-effective system, (3) for a search extending to 500 light years or more, a substantial cost and search-time advantage can be achieved with a large spherical reflector in space with multiple feeds, (4) radio frequency interference shields can be provided for space systems, and (5) cost can range from a few hundred million to tens of billions of dollars, depending on the parameter values assumed.