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Dr. Beatriz Villarroel, Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics

Traditionally, searches for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) have been conducted using large radio telescopes. In recent years, an alternative mode of doing SETI through searches for “technosignatures” in big data has emerged, as this type of search is much cheaper to conduct and may lead to other interesting discoveries. The Vanishing & Appearing Sources during a Century of Observations (VASCO) project uses data with a 70-year temporal baseline to search for objects that have vanished from or appeared in the sky, as well as other exotic transients. The searches cover several technosignature indicators such as Dyson spheres, vanishing stars, and optical lasers, while additionally enabling discovery of a myriad of conventional astrophysical phenomena. The big data challenges are solved with automated methods for candidate identification in images, artificial intelligence methods, and a citizen science program. I will discuss the recent VASCO discovery of 100 red transients, which appear over a very brief period of time (< 30 minutes), with one third of them having amplitudes larger than 5 magnitudes, and a few reaching more than 9-10 mags in amplitude. I will discuss possible interpretations of these transients. Finally, I will present the ongoing VASCO citizen science project, which aims to classify the candidates identified via automated methods, currently numbering about 150 000.