By Robert Uhlig, Technology Correspondent
After spending a year scouring 200 solar systems for signs of extra-terrestrial beings, astronomers have found indisputable proof of intelligent life -- in the kitchen below their telescope.
For four months last year Peter Backus, of Project Phoenix in California, believed that he was listening to messages from outer space via the 64-metre Parkes radio telescope in Australia.
The telescope, the biggest in the southern hemisphere, picked up a distinctive but inexplicable radio signal around 2.4 gigahertz at about the same time each evening that could not be explained.
However, a thorough investigation revealed that the scientists were not listening to little green men whispering through space. Instead, they were eavesdropping on frozen dinners cooking in the microwave oven downstairs.
"It was pretty loud," Dr. Backus told the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in San Antonio [last] week. "One time I tracked one signal for two hours. I couldn't rule it out as human noise," he said.
Dr. Backus said that a note had since been stuck to the microwave asking staff not to use it while the telescope is operating.
Project Phoenix researchers used a new automated system to sift human noise from alien signals, but still encountered several false alarms.
Many of the most promising signals were from satellites.
Another hopeful electromagnetic buzz came from the farthest possible source of human noise: the transmitter on the Pioneer 10 space probe, six billion miles from Earth.
Original file name: .CNI - SETI finds...TV dinner
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