CNN article on Jill Tarter and Seti

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Message 834534 - Posted: 26 Nov 2008, 16:51:40 UTC

(CNN) -- From a remote valley in Northern California, Jill Tarter is listening to the universe.
Jill Tarter is at the Allen Telescope Array in California, which monitors radio signals for signs of alien life.

Her ears are 42 large and sophisticated radio telescopes, spread across several acres, that scan the cosmos for signals of extraterrestrial origin. If intelligent life forms do exist on other planets, and they try to contact us, Tarter will be among the first to know.

Are we citizens of Earth alone in the universe? It's a question that has long fascinated astronomers, sci-fi authors, kids with backyard telescopes and Hollywood executives who churn out spectacles about alien encounters. Polls have found that most Americans believe that some form of life exists beyond our planet.

"It's a fundamental question," said Tarter, the real-life inspiration for Jodie Foster's character in the 1997 movie "Contact." "And it's a question that the person on the street can understand. It's not like a ... super-collider or some search for neutrinos buried in the ice. It's, 'Are we alone? How might we find out? What does that tell us about ourselves and our place in the universe?'

"We're trying to figure out how the universe began, how galaxies and large-scale structures formed, and where did the origins of life as we know it take place?" Tarter said.

"These are all valid questions to ask of the universe. And an equally valid question is whether the same thing that happened here [on Earth] has happened elsewhere." Video Watch a preview of CNN's "In Search of Aliens" series »

Thanks to advancements in technology, scientists hope to get an answer sooner rather than later. Rovers have snapped photographs of the surface of Mars that show fossil-like shapes. NASA hopes to launch within a decade a Terrestrial Planet Finder, an orbiting observatory that would detect planets around nearby stars and determine whether they could support life.
"In Search of Aliens"
Watch Miles O'Brien's five-part series on aliens and UFOs, every day this week on CNN's "American Morning"
6 to 9 a.m. ET
see full schedule »

Such developments are catnip to scientists like Geoffrey Marcy, a professor of astronomy at the University of California-Berkeley who has discovered more extrasolar planets than anyone else.

"It wasn't more than 13 years ago that we hadn't found any planets around the stars, and most people thought that we never would. So here we are not only having found planets, we are looking for habitable planets, signs of biology on those planets," Marcy told CNN. "It's an extraordinary explosion of a field of science that didn't even exist just a few years ago."

Then there's Tarter, whose quest for signs of extraterrestrial life kept her on the fringes of mainstream science for decades. While pursuing her doctorate at UC-Berkeley, Tarter came across an engineering report that floated the idea of using radio telescopes to listen for broadcasts by alien beings.

It became her life's work. In 1984 Tarter founded the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI) in California. Using telescopes in Australia, West Virginia and Puerto Rico, she conducted a decade-long scouring of about 750 nearby star systems for extraterrestrial radio signals.

None was found, although Tarter had some false alarms. In 1998, she intercepted a mysterious signal that lasted for hours. Tarter got so excited she misread her own computer results: The signal was coming from a NASA observatory spacecraft orbiting the sun.

Today, Tarter listens to the heavens with the Allen Telescope Array, a collection of 20-foot-wide telescopes some 300 miles north of San Francisco. The dish-like scopes are a joint effort of SETI and UC-Berkeley's Radio Astronomy Lab and have been funded largely by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who donated more than $25 million to the project.

Unlike previously existing radio telescopes, which scan the sky for limited periods of time, the Allen Telescope Array probes the universe round the clock.

Each of the 42 scopes is aimed at a different area of the sky, collecting reams of data that are continually studied by computers for unusual patterns. Then the listeners must filter out noise from airplanes and satellites.

"We're listening for something that we don't think can be produced by Mother Nature," Tarter said. "We're using the radio frequency, other people are using optical telescopes ... and in both cases we're looking for an artificial nature to a signal.

"In the case of radio, we're looking for a lot of power being squished into just one channel on the radio dial. In the optical, they're looking for very bright flashes that last a nanosecond ... or less, not slow pulsing kinds of things. To date we've never found a natural source that can do that."

Signals that any extraterrestrials might be transmitting for their own use would be difficult to detect, Tarter said. Astronomers are more likely to discover a radio transmission broadcast intentionally at the Earth, she said.

Astronomers at SETI, however, are not sending a signal into space in an attempt to communicate with aliens.

University of California professor Marcy is skeptical about the existence of intelligent alien life and believes our galaxy's vast distances would make communication between Earth and beings on other planets almost impossible.

"The nearest neighbor might be halfway across our galaxy, 50,000 light-years away. Communicating with them will take a hundred thousand years for a round-trip signal," he said.

Still, Tarter remains undaunted. The Allen Telescope Array already does in 10 minutes what once took her scientists 10 days. When the project is completed, it will have 350 telescopes that, combined, can survey tens of thousands of star systems.

"We can look in more places and more frequencies faster than we ever could. And that will just get better with time. We're doing something now we couldn't do when we started, we couldn't do five years ago," she said.

"Think of it as a cosmic haystack. There's a needle in there somewhere. If you pull out a few straws, are you going to get disappointed because you haven't found the needle yet? No. We haven't really begun to explore."

CNN correspondent Miles O'Brien contributed to this story.

Link to the original article on CNN.
"Time is simply the mechanism that keeps everything from happening all at once."

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Message 834548 - Posted: 26 Nov 2008, 17:21:41 UTC

Very good Kittyman. I appreciate your relay of this article to our posting board , I found it very informative. Question; I wonder who is crunching the numbers for the Allen array? Do you know? I'm going to try to find out, I'll let you know if I do, or please let me know if you have that information already. Thanks again.



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Message 834552 - Posted: 26 Nov 2008, 17:28:27 UTC - in response to Message 834548.  

Very good Kittyman. I appreciate your relay of this article to our posting board , I found it very informative. Question; I wonder who is crunching the numbers for the Allen array? Do you know? I'm going to try to find out, I'll let you know if I do, or please let me know if you have that information already. Thanks again.


The other thing I wonder is if Paul Allen has supported the telescope array to the tune of $25million, could he not be persuaded to help Seti? Have they ever tried to contact him?
"Time is simply the mechanism that keeps everything from happening all at once."

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Message 834553 - Posted: 26 Nov 2008, 17:31:46 UTC

I would imaging there are a few people in America who would consider helping the project if they were just contacted. Although it probably largely depends on any clauses applied to the help. I would imaging one of the large computer manufacturers etc would be willing to help but they would probably want a lot of advertising space or recognition in return. Something which I would have thought would be against the principles of the University.
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Message 834571 - Posted: 26 Nov 2008, 18:28:35 UTC

I think ATA is making use of the Casper facility of the University of California at Berkeley which processes data for two research programs, Fly's eye at ATA and Astropulse at Arecibo. See this article:
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Message 834861 - Posted: 27 Nov 2008, 11:04:37 UTC

After reading more carefully the article, I must correct myself. The CASPER facility only processes the ATA data, while we volunteers process the Astropulse data from Arecibo. Both projects are Berkeley U. projects,
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Message 834870 - Posted: 27 Nov 2008, 12:36:46 UTC


. . . Great Article Mark - Thanks for the News Update Sir


BOINC Wiki . . .

Science Status Page . . .
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Message 834896 - Posted: 27 Nov 2008, 14:31:17 UTC - in response to Message 834870.  


. . . Great Article Mark - Thanks for the News Update Sir


Yer quite welcome Sir....
Now why dosn't somebody contact Mr. Allen and tell him we need help here at Seti too.....
"Time is simply the mechanism that keeps everything from happening all at once."

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Message 834942 - Posted: 27 Nov 2008, 18:17:45 UTC

I wonder if there's any danger of Allens array and his money overshadowing and eventually overtaking the SETI project.... that sounds kinda paranoid, don't even know why I said it. Never mind. :-)





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Message 834955 - Posted: 27 Nov 2008, 19:25:22 UTC

I don't see how 42 little 6-meter dishes are going to outdo Arecibo. Even when the Allen Array is complete it still will be much smaller than Arecibo. Note: SetiatHome uses only part of Arecibo at a time but that part could be half. That's nearly four hectares to one, Arecibo to Allen. So the setup at Allen will have to be much better that at Arecibo to make up for the areal difference.
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Message 834960 - Posted: 27 Nov 2008, 19:55:28 UTC
Last modified: 27 Nov 2008, 20:01:19 UTC

Trying to summarize the differences between SETI and ATA, which is not only an area difference of the receiving disks. SETI searches for narrow band signals, while both Fly's eye and Astropulse search for wideband signals of very short duration, The Allen array covers a wider area of the sky compared to Arecibo, with a lower sensitivity, So Allen and Arecibo perform searches which are orthogonal and complementary to each other. This is what I could understand, not being a radio astronomer. If I am wrong, please correct me.
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Message 834999 - Posted: 27 Nov 2008, 22:44:47 UTC - in response to Message 834942.  

I wonder if there's any danger of Allens array and his money overshadowing and eventually overtaking the SETI project.... that sounds kinda paranoid, don't even know why I said it. Never mind. :-)




There are several "SETI projects" -- and more than one organization doing SETI.
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Message 835414 - Posted: 29 Nov 2008, 12:34:04 UTC

Excellent Article thanks for posting it!

Cheers!!

LETS BEGIN IN 2010
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Message 836176 - Posted: 1 Dec 2008, 16:57:19 UTC

Maybe a little bit late, but the article is also translated into Spanish, by...me :)

Entrevista a Jill Tarter por CNN

Very nice and inspiring article!!

Regards,

Tiare R.-


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Message 836179 - Posted: 1 Dec 2008, 17:14:01 UTC - in response to Message 836176.  

Maybe a little bit late, but the article is also translated into Spanish, by...me :)

Entrevista a Jill Tarter por CNN

Very nice and inspiring article!!

Regards,

Tiare R.-

Glad you enjoyed it....nice to have you visit again too!
"Time is simply the mechanism that keeps everything from happening all at once."

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Message 836180 - Posted: 1 Dec 2008, 17:14:10 UTC

Hi Tiare.
How are you my friend?



With each crime and every kindness we birth our future.
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Message 836195 - Posted: 1 Dec 2008, 18:15:04 UTC

Hello everyone!!, Mike, msattler:

I'm very well, thank you!
I haven't been totally gone, I still keep reading the forums and now I'm making this Spanish site Seti.cl It's up for more than 4 months already :)

I'm very happy with it, and as you can see, it's on the main page on the news section :)

well, have are you been??

Tiare.-


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Message 836225 - Posted: 1 Dec 2008, 19:27:03 UTC - in response to Message 836176.  



Maybe a little bit late, but the article is also translated into Spanish, by...me :) never too late

Entrevista a Jill Tarter por CNN

Very nice and inspiring article!!

Regards,

Tiare R.-



. . . 'ello Tiare - bravisimo! - great work on that site [btw]

> SETI@home's Main Page has had a Listing in their NEWS:



November 20, 2008

Check out the new Spanish-language site, BOINC SETI Chile




fyi: My MySpace ;)






BOINC Wiki . . .

Science Status Page . . .
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Message 836405 - Posted: 2 Dec 2008, 8:13:10 UTC - in response to Message 836225.  

Huge dishes listen for UFO phone calls . Calling all aliens!

Miles O'Brien talks to SETI scientists and planet hunters about life beyond Earth.

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/tech/2008/12/01/obrien.1.800.alien.cnn

Video

I always thought SETI was #1. Never new there were other dishes out there.
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