Meet the Researcher - Raffy Traas

Breakout Room: 21

RaffyTraas_HeadshotResearcher Name: Raffy Traas
Title of Research: Searching Nearby Exoplanets for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Division Representing: Physics and Astronomy
Institution: University of California - Berkeley
Institution Location: California
Home State: Wisconsin
District Number: 13
Advisor/Mentor: Steve Croft
Funding Source: UC Berkeley SETI Research Center; National Science Foundation

Research Experience:  
Breakthrough Listen University of California - Berkeley June 2020 - Present Conducted first cloud-compatible and most comprehensive search for narrowband radio technosignatures in Green Bank Telescope observations of stars identified as potential Earth-like exoplanet hosts by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) Refactor Breakthrough Listen's Doppler search pipeline for compatibility with the Google Cloud environment Develop, refine, and document tools for future searches to use cloud computingAnalyze data for Breakthrough Listen's survey of 100 nearby galaxies for intelligent civilizations  University of Wisconsin-La Crosse; Undergraduate Researcher under Dr. Shauna Sallmen September 2019 - Present Simulating Mirror Orbits Around Tidally Locked Exoplanets N-body orbital simulations of mirrors-planet-star systems accounting for stellar radiation pressure HI Shells in the Interstellar Medium Searching data cubes from SETHI and GALFA databases to identify neutral Hydrogen shells formed by supernovae in the interstellar medium Performing measurements and imaging shell properties to characterize shape and behaviorComparing potentially undiscovered shells with SIMBAD Undergraduate Researcher under Dr. Taviare Hawkins February - September 2019Trained in Ultracentrifuge operationProduced images for analysis and interpretation of microtubule behavior in response to different environments Florida State University John D. Fox Linear Accelerator LaboratoryResearch Assistant under Ingo Wiedenhoever June - August 2019 Regulated beamline production during the 19F (d, p) 20F measurements using the Super-Enge Split-Pole Spectrograph Performed detector setup procedures, including biasing and manually changing spectrograph angle Constructed high-resolution spectra of high-lying states in 20F with implications to Type-I X-ray bursts Obtained spectroscopic factors through Distorted-Wave Born Approximation computation

Presentation Experience: 
Division of Nuclear Physics - American Physical SocietyResearch Presenter at the Division of Nuclear Physics Annual Fall Conference October 2019 Presented a research poster to the larger professional community of nuclear physics through the Conference Experience for Undergraduates (CEU) program All presented research was conducted at Florida State University Poster title: 19F (d, p) 20F Measurements Using the Super-Enge Split-Pole Spectrograph with Implications to Type-I X-Ray Bursts  

Significance of Research:       
Through the work of missions like the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), we are beginning to understand that Earth-like planets are common—an exciting development for Breakthrough Listen (BL), the most comprehensive Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) effort to date.  By presuming that life might emerge in environments similar to Earth, exoplanetary systems are the best places to look for evidence of life beyond Earth.  In the case that intelligent life eventually develops on these other worlds and becomes at least as technologically advanced as ourselves, they would be detectable from the activity of their radio communication networks—their technological signature. The TESS mission has developed a list of stars likely to host planets—a catalog of objects known as Targets of Interest (TOI).  The first analysis to utilize cloud-based computing, my project searched for the technosignature of intelligent civilizations in 28 BL observations of these targets, looking for activity in the 1-11 GHz radio frequency range.  This enabled us to put one of the most stringent constraints to date on the presence of technosignatures across such a wide range of radio frequencies.

Uniqueness of Research: 
My research is the deepest search of nearby exoplanets and places the most comprehensive limits on the existence of neighboring, intelligent, extraterrestrial civilizations.  It represents a new opportunity to analyze data across a wider frequency range on a promising new target sample and ushers in a new era of SETI technosignature searches.