The Green Bank radio telescope in West Virginia (Photo: PA)

If you were one of the lucky people who cashed in during the meteoric rise of Bitcoin, then you should probably start feeling guilty.

A top astronomer has claimed the cryptocurrency craze is playing havoc with the quest to find alien life.

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The problem is caused by the hardware used to ‘mine’ Bitcoin and other forms of digital dosh.

Miners generally use high-powered graphics processing units (GPUs), which are now in short supply due to huge demand.

But alien hunters also use the same hardware.

Dr Dan Werthimer, chief scientist at Berkeley University’s Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETA) Research Center, told the BBC: ‘We’d like to use the latest GPUs [graphics processing units]… and we can’t get ’em.

‘That’s limiting our search for extra-terrestrials, to try to answer the question: ‘Are we alone? Is there anybody out there?’

‘This is a new problem, it’s only happened on orders we’ve been trying to make in the last couple of months.’

Mining involves solving complex mathematical puzzles which are used to lock cryptocurrency transactions to the blockchain.

More: World

This process requires high powered GPUs and rewards miners with a payout every time they crack one of the maths problems.

Yet GPUs are also used to analyse the vast amount of data picked up by radio telescopes, which scour the universe for radio waves produced by anything from exploding stars to alien civilisations.

Of course, we haven’t actually heard ET trying to phone home – and we probably won’t unless astronomers can get their hands on enough GPUs to power their search for life.

MORE: Bitcoin investors ‘should be prepared to lose all their money’, Financial Conduct Authority warns



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