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Help Wanted: Searching The Universe

Help Wanted: Searching The Universe

It’s an effort astronomers liken to “listening to one hundred million radios, each tuned to a different channel.” It’s the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and it’s no simple task.

That’s why Dr. Jill Tarter, director of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), is asking for help from the rest of the global scientific community in her quest. Tarter and SETI are planning to release astronomical radio telescope data to astronomers and researchers all over the world for analysis, according to a statement released Monday.

Tarter has devoted her career to searching for signs of intelligent life elsewhere in our universe. In 2009, she was awarded a TED Prize for her wish to give the rest of the planet the opportunity to “become active participants in the ultimate search for cosmic company.”

She used the benefits of her prize to form “setiQuest,” the program that will make data collected by SETI available to those who request it.

SETI records radio signals from space using a series of radio telescopes called the “Allen Telescope Array,” named after Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and financier of the project.

In an attempt to narrow their search, SETI astronomers have been focusing on searching for what are called narrowband signals. But opening up the data to other researchers could mean the development of new methods that could analyze broadband signals.

In the past, SETI Institute would process and analyze data in real time and discard the data shortly after. Now, the plan is to provide a day’s worth of collected data each week and make the information available for analysis and review for up to six months through its website.


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