Exploring Space in Search of Alien Life
It can be a challenge to pull kids away from using the computer to play games and as a social media. They may not be aware of the exciting learning discoveries that the internet offers. As a parent or teacher, it is our job to point them in the right direction. We cannot rely on the public school system; it is failing out kids miserably. According to PISA the United States has fallen behind other countries when it comes to learning, but the US kids excel when it comes to self esteem! What are we teaching our kids!
Most kids have an interest in aliens and what better way to get them interested in science than to search for alien life. An interest in space could lead to a degree in space science such as a Master of Science in Space Sciences from FIT or Bachelor of Science in Space Studies from AMU.
A program called Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has been searching for alien life since 1999. They have pointed a variety of telescope to the sky and are downloading the data with the help of volunteers... and that is where the problem lies. There is so much data it is impossible for them to go through it all. They currently have over 5 million volunteers working from home.
How to get started?
To get started go the to the SETI web site and determine which project you want to participate in:
SETI@home uses your unused CPUs to analyze data from telescopes. It runs behind the scene and is known as the largest supercomputer.
Download the data that has been obtain from these computers and help search for unusual radio activity.SETI Brainstorm started in 2011 allowing you to go from passive to active participation. You can download the torrent files hereand directions on how to interact with the data here:Interacting with Kepler SETI Data
Their information is a bit sketchy so plan on spending some time learning. If you have younger children you might want to explore this before introducing it to them. For older kids it will depend on their level, it could be something they could go at alone or an activity to do together.
What happens if you find something?
If you do find something there is a proto call for making a Public Announcement and you will be given partial credit . A telegram with any pertinent information will be sent out worldwide to astronomical organization and the person who found the information will be named as a co-discover along with the SETI team.
Creating a Lesson Plan or Guide
Look for books or online sites to help with ways of exploring information on aliens. A book I came across is The Kids' Guide to Aliens (Hardcover) by Barbara J. Davis and the history channel has a great Ancient Aliens series that may also be seen on Netflix. You may also purchase the series on Amazon, eBay and iTunes.
Other avenues of space exploration to explore includes MUFON and Stellarium. MUFON stands for Mutual UFO Network and offers training to become a field investigator. You have to be a member and pass a test in order to qualify. The cost of membership is $30-$50 depending on the membership you choose and the field investigator manual is $50 for members.
To learn about the sky download Stellarium open source planetarium for your computer.
Stellarium will display the sky in realtime and includes the option of changing locations.