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Amateur SETI
Looking for company...

Allen Telescope Array
The Allen Telescope Array (ATA) in 2008.

A back-bencher US senator decided to get himself some publicity in 1991 and chose NASA's SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program as an easy target. Saying it was a waste of money to look for little green men, he got the program canceled.

This occurred despite the fact that the project, the High Resolution Microwave Survey, was a thoroughly refereed program with support across the scientific spectrum and its budget was actually very modest.

In the wake of this sad affair, non-governmental and amateur programs arose to continue the effort. Most of the SETI efforts rely on public donations to fund at least some of what the NASA could have done. This included the Phoenix project that rose from the ashes of the NASA program.

In addition, several amateur groups have sprung up to carry out their own SETI programs. As it is in astronomy, it is quite feasible for amateurs to make significant contributions in this area. The prime challenge of SETI is to monitor a vast number of channels in a vast number of directions. The more people that are looking, the better the chance of finding something.

The conventional SETI technique is to use radio telescopes to monitor the water hole, i.e. the radio frequency range between the emissions of hydrogen (H) and hydroxyl (OH) where cosmic background noise and absorption in the atmosphere are both low. Also, since these emissions are common throughout the universe, it would be a logical range for other civilizations to choose to send out a signal.

An exciting new approach is to look in the visible spectrum for coherent light signals. This is based on the assumption that laser light could be used by other civilizations for communications.

A unique and exciting project for amateurs is SETI@home. Data from radio telescopes will be distributed over the Internet to thousands of participants who will have special programs running as screensavers that analyze the data when the computers are not otherwise in use.

For an introduction to SETI and how you can get involved, see Larry Klaes page at COSETI entitled So You Want to "Get Into" SETI.

SETI News from Space-for-All
See the archive for older SETI articles...

SETI News Sources

SETI News Sources & Forums

SETI SuperStar
This page chosen by the SETI League as their
April 2005 SETI SuperStar

SETI Projects

This citizen scientist project was created by Jill Tartar of the SETI Institute (see below), with resources of her TED Prize, and Zooniverse, It invives members of the public to assist in analyzing radio telescope data for signs of extraterrestrial signals. This is done visually rather than with computer software as in the SETI@home (see below) participation project.


SETI Institute
The SETI Institute of Mountain View California supports and runs many projects such as the Allen Telescope Array. Check out the list of past projects such as Project Phoenix, which continued work at the Arecibo Telescope when NASA funding was shut off.

Private donations are welcomed. Public contributions

Earth Speaks
A program sponsored by the SETI Institute in which people can submit suggestions on what message, if any, should be transmitted back after a signal from an extraterrestrial civilization is detected:

Analyze actual SETI data with your screensaver. The huge amount of data collected by SETI experiments must be analyzed within limited budgets. So the idea of SETI@home is to take advantage of thousands of idling home computers to do the analysis.

Data files will be downloaded over the Internet and a special screensaver program will analyze the data during otherwise idle times on the computers. After a week or two, results will then be uploaded and new data obtained.

Project SERENDIP at the University of California scans 168 million radio channels with the Arecebo attenna in Puerto Rico. This data will be fed to thousands of SETI@home participants.

The software became available May 17, 1999.

Several million people are participating. Participation information.

SETI@Home - IEEE CiSE - Jan.01 - in depth article on the SETI@ Home programming.

(See also the The DataGrid Project which discusses other projects using distributed computers on the internet.

ESA Portal - Benefits for Europe - The European Space Agency helps develop the Grid, the next generation of the World Wide Web )

Related software:

Press reports:


A project that opens up SETI related software to the open source development process. It's also hope that this will encourage new SETI software to be developed in an open source manner as well.

systemic - characterizing extrasolar planetary systems
This program invites home hobbyists and student to analyze simulated extrasolar planetary data on their PCs. More info in the Space Science section.
Project BAMBI
BAMBI (Bob and Mike's Big Investment) is a amateur SETI project by Bob Lash and Mike Fremont. They will use one 3.1-million-channel radio telescope in California and one in Colorado, separated by 1000 miles to reduce local interference.

Stuart Kingley of Columbus, Ohio runs his Columbus Optical SETI Observatory out of his own budget. He searches for extremely fast (nanosecond) optical pulses as well as continuous laser signals that could indicate optical communication signals from extraterrestrials.

See this site for possible amateur participation in this type of search, which requires conventional optical telescopes and photometers.

Other optical SETI efforts are at Harvard and Berkeley, both of which get significant funding from the Planetary Society and the SETI Institute (see below).

Allen Telescope Array
Funded by Paul G. Allen and Nathan P. Myhrvold, this project of the SETI Institute and Univ. California Berkeley combines the signals from a large array of low cost satellite TV type dishes to provide a powerful telescope dedicated to SETI. The ATA will eventually have over 350 dishes. The ATA began operations in 2007 with 42 dishes.

In the spring of 2011, the ATA operations were suspended due to a lack of funds. The UC Berkeley group that planned to use the ATA for radio astronomy projects did not obtain sufficient funding to follow through on its committments to the ATA. In response, the SETI Institute set up a fundraising program called Setistars. In August of 2011, they had surpassed their $200,000 goal and were planning to resume observations with the ATA.

In December 2011 they resumed operations using public donations and money from the USAF, which seeks to investigate use of the array for space debris studies.

More about the ATA:

Amateur SETI
This site supports "individuals interested in amateur SETI and radio astronomy. Here you will find files, links, and programs to support the development of the hobby."

The SETI League
The SETI League, based in Little Ferry, New Jersey, is organizing several amateur SETI projects. Project Argus currently includes 64 amateur radio telescope stations (as of Nov. 28, 1998) and hopes to reach eventually 5000 systems around the world monitoring selected frequencies.

The amateur telescopes have ranged in cost from hundreds of dollars to several thousand.

IAA SETI Permanent Study Group: Rio Scale
A scale - 1 to 10 - that attempts to "quantify the impact of any public announcement regarding evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence.

SETI at the Planetary Society
The Planetary Society supports SETI activity such as Project BETA (Billion-channel Extra-Terrestrial Assay) and Project META II (million-channel Extra-Terrestrial Assay) run by Paul Horowitz of Harvard.

SETI Australia Centre
This scientific group in Australia does professional research related to SETI but also makes significant efforts to involve the public. Their current project is the Southern SERENDIP.
 S.E.T.I Research & Community Development Institute
Learn about SETI at this Australian site. Contains a huge amount of information and resources about SETI. Introductory material is accessible by non-technical readers.
More SETI sites

HobbySpace related sections

Fermi Paradox
The famous physicist Enrico Fermi asked the basic question about the possibility of extraterrestrial life "Where are they?" That is, considering the long age of the galaxy, it would seem that ET's should have contacted us by now. Here are some articles and resources concerning this question:

Drake Equation
This formula developed by Frank Drake in 1960 attempts to provide a quantitative estimate of the number of planets in the Milky Way that could have extraterrestrial civilizations.

The View from a Distant Star: Challenges of Interstellar MESSAGE-MAKING
A discussion by Douglas A. Vakoch of the SETI Institute on the various methods that have been proposed or used, e.g. the plaques on the Voyager spacecraft, to communicate with alien intelligence.

Messages to ET
If a SETI signal was received, how would we respond? The question of how to compose messages to send to ET has been seriously examined by various people and even conferences on the topic have been held to obtain inputs from a broad spectrum of scientists, artists, philosphers, etc.

Implications of Alien Signals
The social impact of a contact with an extraterrestrial civilization would be enormous. There is a lot of speculation as to what exactly that impact would be. Here are some resources about this.

Interesting Signals
While various SETI searches have never claimed to see a clearly artificially produced transmission from another star system, there have occasionally been signals that were not trivially explained away (e.g. as satellite or other human generated transmissions.)

Here are some articles about such anomalous signasl:

 Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers
This group of over 400 members was founded in 1981 and is devoted to radio astronomy by amateurs. Even with small dishes, amateurs can study solar activity, meteors, and even do imaging of celestial radio sources. Although not an emphasis of the organization, some members participate in SETI projects.

RadioScience Observing by Joseph Carr
Joseph Carr's book (Howard Sams/PROMPT Publishing, tel: 1-317-298-5400) focuses on information for the amateur who is interested in radio from space and the atmosphere.
More SETI resources:


The Art of C. Sergent Lindsey





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