NANOSETI - A Nanosatellite for Optical SETI
Because of the increasing number of discovered extrasolar planets in possibly habitable zones and an enhanced knowledge about extreme circumstances under which life could exist, it appears to be more and more likely that signs of life outside Earth could be detected soon. If proved to be true, the next logical question will be, if intelligent lifeforms may exist and moreover, if they are even trying to communicate with other civilizations. Even though no lifeforms have been detected yet, considering the recent development described above, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) seems to be more justified than ever, although the search of more than 50 years in radio wavelengths has not delivered a positive sign yet.
One of the possible ways to study relevant signals coming from potential intelligent extraterrestrial lifeforms can be to analyze the optical spectrum, which is usually called OSETI (Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). OSETI is also already conducted by several institutions using ground-based facilities on Earth mostly by using arrays of photomultiplier tubes. But such observations are limited by the atmospheric influence and the geographical position.
A possible way to overcome these disadvantages could be the usage of a dedicated satellite for OSETI in an earth orbit. Since such a satellite mission would be obviously very expensive, it is worth to be investigated if there is the possibility to reduce the cost of such a mission by utilizing a nanosatellite concept.
In recent years, nanosatellites of the order of 1 to 20 kg have reached a high state of maturity and are becoming a more and more useful tool for several applications, ranging from communications to scientific experiments and observations.
The basic idea and the main objective of this study is to answer the question if a dedicated nanosatellite could be used for OSETI. The study is conducted by the Interdisciplinary Research Center for Extraterrestrial Studies (IFEX) of the University of Würzburg and results presented at the International Astronautical Congress.