October 1, 2022

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Farewell to Frank Drake, ET Fishing Pioneer

From the Seti Program for Research on Intelligent Extraterrestrial Civilizations to the Famous Equation Appreciating Alien Civilizations, Frank Drake’s research was a pioneering project conducted on rugged, rugged terrain, on the border between science and science fiction. At 92, one of the figures that many researchers do not hesitate to identify as “legendary” papers, astronomer Amedeo Balbi, of the University of Rome Tor Vergata, wrote on Instagram.

Born May 28, 1930 in Chicago, Drake died on September 2 of natural causes at his home in Aptos, California. For more than 60 years, he’s been stalking outer space, starting with the 1960’s Project Ozma, which aimed to search for artificial radio signals from alien planets. The name was inspired by Princess Ozma, one of the characters in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and for months researchers led by Drake listened to the Green Bank radio telescope, but to no avail. Similar disappointment with Project Ozma II, which between 1973 and 1976 kept an eye on 650 stars.

Among the most famous projects that Drake has promoted is the Seti (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), a research program whose goal was to put radio telescopes to listen for any signals coming from extraterrestrial civilizations. Drake is also responsible for the famous equation that bears his name, which was developed to get an estimate of the number of potential extraterrestrial civilizations capable of communicating in the Milky Way.

Drake chose to study astronomy when he was very young, and was fascinated by the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligent civilizations. After studying at Cornell University and Harvard, he began working at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank and later at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

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Undoubtedly, his studies opened the new and difficult path for the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life forms, and the messages he has released into space over the years, hoping to collect them, are famous. The most famous of them is the gold plate entrusted to the Pioneer 11 probe, launched in 1973, which represents a golden plate of a portrait of a man and a woman, information about the Earth and its location in the Milky Way. Another famous message is the Arecibo message, and like the previous one, developed by Drake in collaboration with astronomer and science fiction writer Carl Sagan, the message was sent on November 16, 1974 with the most powerful beaming ever into space at the time, toward star cluster M13 in the constellation Hercules . 3 minutes long, it was in binary code, a combination of 1 and 0 that led to the birth of a graphic containing the coordinates of the solar system and information about humans, such as the structure of DNA, the atomic numbers of the elements that make up it, decimal numbers and the average height of a man. Now students and researchers are working on this message to achieve and update it.