Project Cyclops

Project Cyclops was a study involving the proposed use of a very large array of dish antennas to perform in a detailed search of the radio-frequency spectrum (especially the 7.1-inch-to-8.3-inch [18-cm-to-21-cm]

wavelength water-hole region) for artifact signals from intelligent alien civilizations. The engineering details of this SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) configuration were derived in a special summer-institute design study that was sponsored by NASA at Stanford University in 1971. The stated object of the Project Cyclops study was to assess what would be required in hardware, human resources, time, and funding to mount a realistic effort, using present (or near-term future) state-of-the-art techniques, aimed at detecting the existence of intelligent life in other star systems.

Named for the one-eyed giants found in Greek mythology, the proposed Cyclops Project would use as its "eye" a large array of individually steerable 328-foot- (100-m-) diameter parabolic dish antennas. These Cyclops antennas would be arranged in a hexagonal matrix, so that each antenna unit was equidistant from all its neighbors. A 958-foot (292-m)

This artist's rendering provides a panoramic view of the Project Cyclops hexagonal array of 328-foot- (100-m-) diameter radio telescopes—as it might appear if the large facility were constructed and located on the far side of the Moon. In addition to terrestrial-noise-free radio astronomy, this large radio telescope complex would perform an extensive search for radio signals from intelligent, alien civilizations around other star systems. (NASA)

This artist's rendering provides a panoramic view of the Project Cyclops hexagonal array of 328-foot- (100-m-) diameter radio telescopes—as it might appear if the large facility were constructed and located on the far side of the Moon. In addition to terrestrial-noise-free radio astronomy, this large radio telescope complex would perform an extensive search for radio signals from intelligent, alien civilizations around other star systems. (NASA)

separation distance between antenna dish centers would help to avoid shadowing. In the Project Cyclops concept, an array of about 1,000 of these antennas would be used to collect and evaluate simultaneously radio signals falling on them from a target star system. The entire Cyclops array would function like a single giant radio antenna, some 11.6 square miles (30 km2) to 23.2 square miles (60 km2) in size. The study examined a Project Cyclops on Earth as well as on the far side of the Moon—an excellent radio astronomy location shielded from all stray terrestrial radio wave sources.

Project Cyclops can be regarded as one of the foundational studies in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Its results—based on the pioneering efforts of such individuals as Frank Drake (1930- ), the late Philip Morrison (1915-2005), John Billingham (1930- ), and the late Bernard Oliver (1916-95)—established the technical framework for subsequent SETI activities. Project Cyclops also reaffirmed the interstellar microwave window, the water hole, as perhaps the most suitable part of the electromagnetic spectrum for interstellar civilizations to communicate with each other.

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