It had been a quiet morning in the mountains of West Virginia. In April of 1960, Frank Drake and his colleagues were beginning Project Ozma -- the first search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
They'd been using a radio telescope to monitor a star known as Tau Ceti. The star was quiet. But when Drake turned the telescope toward a second star, the quiet vanished. A loudspeaker hummed with a signal that repeated eight times a second -- a sure sign of an intelligent origin.
Alas, the signal turned out to come from here on Earth. But Epsilon Eridani caught people's attention -- and it's still getting attention today: Although there's no evidence of life there, the star does have at least one planet.
Epsilon Eridani is about 10 light-years away. It's a little smaller and cooler than the Sun, and much younger. That means there probably hasn't been enough time for an advanced civilization to evolve there.
But the star is encircled by two asteroid belts, plus one confirmed planet. The planet will be farthest from the star as seen from Earth this year, so it may be possible to take a picture of it. It won't look like much, though -- just a faint speck of light.
The planet is probably a gas giant like Jupiter, the giant of our own solar system. Such planets aren't likely homes for life. But it's possible that Epsilon Eridani has Earth-like planets in Earth-like orbits. Such planets are hard to find, but they're the best places to hunt for life.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2010
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