Every once in a while the SETI@home team updates their list of top candidates for persistent extraterrestrial signals. I thought it might be nice to show these candidates over the Sky in Google Earth (you know, the view where you explore stars and galaxies in outer space), similar to the way I previously illustrated the candidate pixels in an online Google Sky map (see this earlier blog post for the history). As a result, the visualizations of NTPCkr candidates can now also be downloaded as plug-ins for Sky in Google Earth – refer to the list of links at the end of this post. Once downloaded, open the KML file with Google Earth and double-click on any of the candidates listed under “Temporary Places”
I plan to update the list when new candidates are published, but for now there are only two plugins available: one for the current top-10 candidates, and another to serve as an archive of earlier candidates that I am aware of. All candidates contain location information that can be viewed by clicking on the candidate’s region. A candidate region is often seen as a green diamond, or a green speck when zoomed out. Whenever available, the candidate’s information also contains a link to an NTPCkr Forum thread, although this is currently only true for archived candidates and all these older threads have been locked from further discussions.
The official list of top candidates for 9 November 2011 does not currently specify the right-ascension and declination information, but I calculated their locations from the candidate IDs (assuming the numbering scheme hasn’t changed). All ten candidates are located in a relatively small field-of-view of about 1.2° and located in the Pegasus constellation. Seven candidates, including the top candidate with ID 20586008, are neighboring pixels.
The new plug-in code can also display pixel regions for polar candidates, unlike the earlier online sky-map that can only outline equatorial pixels. As an aside, I find it interesting that two of the archived candidates are located in the polar region (namely candidate IDs 2943328 and 3851637 at declinations 51.183158° and 68.028012°, respectively), since I thought all older signals analyzed by SETI@home are from the Arecibo Observatory within the equatorial region. Being able to highlight polar candidates may become more important if future NTPCkr candidates start to surface from new data being collected at Green Bank (or possibly from data of NASA’s Kepler Mission).
I would still like to add web links to the NTPCkr “skyplot” of each candidate when the online sky-plot feature is working again, which I found very useful. (I wonder whether the SETI@home team disabled the sky-plot feature due to server resource constraints.) The ability to click on candidate pixels in Google Earth and navigate to related pages within the application (from the speech bubble that pops up) makes for a very smooth exploration and learning experience.
Download a plugin for Sky in Google Earth to investigate SETI@home NTPCkr candidates: