Pradyumna Kummamuru standing outside in the wilderness

Pradyumna Kummamuru

Part-time Alien Hunter

PhD Candidate, Astrophysics
College of Sciences and Engineering
University of Tasmania

You would be lying if you said you’ve never considered the possibility of aliens watching over us. Part of my job as a radio astrophysicist is to be on the lookout for them. Yes! No kidding. When you think of space, the beautiful sea of stars spread across the Tasman sky or gazing through the telescope to get a glimpse of Saturn’s rings may come to mind. But there is so much more to the universe we can’t see through the naked eye. This is where radio astronomy comes into the picture.

Objects in space release special signals, called radio waves, and we need antenna dishes (radio telescopes), to capture these radio waves and understand them. From satellites to black holes, all these objects release radio waves; waiting to be unravelled. I make use of the network of radio telescopes that the University of Tasmania has across Australia to communicate with spacecrafts in the solar system.

For my work, I send signals from Earth to these spacecrafts which could be orbiting either a planet or a planet’s moon. These signals are reflected back to telescopes on Earth. The signal passes through space and is affected by things along the way; reading these signals when they come back to earth helps us find what’s out there. It can be affected by solar winds, planet atmospheres, gravity, or even aliens. Yes, aliens! It’s not very likely but if we’re ever going to find them, this is how we’d do it.

I love telling stories. And there are plenty of them waiting to be told out there in space. So, hop aboard my spaceship of curiosity and discover the universe!

Follow Pradyumna on Twitter: @Pkk_rubric