SETI Institute

SETI Institute

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Not to be confused with the SITE Institute
SITE Institute
The Search for International Terrorist Entities Intelligence Group is an organization that tracks the online activity of terrorist organizations. The SITE Institute was founded in 2002 by Rita Katz and Josh Devon, who had left the Investigative Project...


The SETI Institute is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to “explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life
Life is a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased , or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate...

 in the universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

”. SETI stands for the "search for extraterrestrial intelligence". One program is the use of both radio
Radio telescope
A radio telescope is a form of directional radio antenna used in radio astronomy. The same types of antennas are also used in tracking and collecting data from satellites and space probes...

 and optical telescope
Optical telescope
An optical telescope is a telescope which is used to gather and focus light mainly from the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum for directly viewing a magnified image for making a photograph, or collecting data through electronic image sensors....

s to search for deliberate signals from extraterrestrial intelligence. Other research, pursued within the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, includes the discovery of extrasolar planets, potentials for life on Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

 and other bodies within the Solar System
Solar System
The Solar System consists of the Sun and the astronomical objects gravitationally bound in orbit around it, all of which formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud approximately 4.6 billion years ago. The vast majority of the system's mass is in the Sun...

, and the habitability of the galaxy
Milky Way
The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains the Solar System. This name derives from its appearance as a dim un-resolved "milky" glowing band arching across the night sky...

 (including the study of extremophiles). The SETI Institute’s public outreach efforts include working with teachers and students in promoting science education and the teaching of evolution, working with NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 on exploration missions such as Kepler
Kepler Mission
The Kepler spacecraft is an American space observatory, the space-based portion of NASA's Kepler Mission to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. The spacecraft is named in honor of the 17th-century German astronomer Johannes Kepler...

 and SOFIA
Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy
The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center to construct and maintain an airborne observatory. NASA awarded the contract for the development of the aircraft, operation of the observatory and management of the American part of the...

, and producing a weekly science program: Are We Alone?
Are We Alone?
Are We Alone? is the SETI Institute's weekly science radio program, hosted by Senior Astronomer Seth Shostak and Molly Bentley, the Executive producer of the radio show....


Instruments used

Instruments used by SETI Institute scientists include the Allen Telescope Array
Allen Telescope Array
The Allen Telescope Array , formerly known as the One Hectare Telescope , was a joint effort by the SETI Institute and the Radio Astronomy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley to construct a radio interferometer that is dedicated to astronomical observations and a simultaneous...

, the radio telescopes at Arecibo
Arecibo Observatory
The Arecibo Observatory is a radio telescope near the city of Arecibo in Puerto Rico. It is operated by SRI International under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation...

, Parkes
Parkes Observatory
The Parkes Observatory is a radio telescope observatory, 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia. It was one of several radio antennas used to receive live, televised images of the Apollo 11 moon landing on 20 July 1969....

, and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory
National Radio Astronomy Observatory
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center of the United States National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc for the purpose of radio astronomy...

 at Green Bank, the Hubble Space Telescope
Hubble Space Telescope
The Hubble Space Telescope is a space telescope that was carried into orbit by a Space Shuttle in 1990 and remains in operation. A 2.4 meter aperture telescope in low Earth orbit, Hubble's four main instruments observe in the near ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared...

, and the Spitzer Space Telescope
Spitzer Space Telescope
The Spitzer Space Telescope , formerly the Space Infrared Telescope Facility is an infrared space observatory launched in 2003...



The SETI Institute was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) California nonprofit organization in 1984 by Thomas Pierson (CEO), and Dr. Jill Tarter
Jill Tarter
Jill Cornell Tarter is an American astronomer and the current director of the Center for SETI Research, holding the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI at the SETI Institute.-Education:...

. Financial and leadership support over the life of the SETI Institute has included Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan
Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books...

, Bernard Oliver
Bernard M. Oliver
Bernard M. Oliver , aka Barney Oliver, was a scientist who made contributions in many fields, including radar, television, and computers. He was the founder and director of Hewlett Packard laboratories until his retirement in 1981. He is also a recognized pioneer in the search for...

, David Packard
David Packard
David Packard was a co-founder of Hewlett-Packard , serving as president , CEO , and Chairman of the Board . He served as U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense from 1969–1971 during the Nixon administration...

, William Hewlett
William Reddington Hewlett
William Redington Hewlett was an engineer and the co-founder, with David Packard, of the Hewlett-Packard Company . He was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan where is father taught at the Univerisy of Michigan Medical School...

, Gordon Moore
Gordon Moore
Gordon Earle Moore is the co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of Intel Corporation and the author of Moore's Law .-Life and career:...

, Paul Allen
Paul Allen
Paul Gardner Allen is an American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. Allen co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates...

, Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Paul Myhrvold , formerly Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, is co-founder of Intellectual Ventures. Myhrvold, usually with coinventors, holds 17 U.S. patents assigned to Microsoft and has applied for more than 500 patents. In addition, Myhrvold and coinventors hold 115 U.S...

, Lewis Platt, and Greg Papadopoulos
Greg Papadopoulos
Greg Papadopoulos, Ph.D. was Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Sun Microsystems from September 1994 until February 2010. He is the creator and lead proponent for Redshift, a theory on whether technology markets are over or under-served by Moore's Law.Papadopoulos achieved a...

. Two Nobel Laureates are also associated with the SETI Institute: Charles Townes, key inventor of the laser, and Baruch Blumberg
Baruch Samuel Blumberg
Baruch Samuel "Barry" Blumberg was an American doctor and co-recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine , and the President of the American Philosophical Society from 2005 until his death.Blumberg received the Nobel Prize for "discoveries concerning new mechanisms for the origin...

, who discovered the Hepatitis B vaccine. Within the SETI Institute, Jill Tarter heads the SETI effort; Dr. David Morrison
David Morrison (astrophysicist)
Dr. David Morrison is director of the Carl Sagan Center for Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute, former director of the NASA Lunar Science Institute, and senior scientist at the NASA Astrobiology Institute, at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. He is the past...

 is the Director of the Carl Sagan Center, and Edna DeVore is the Director of Education and Public Outreach. Dr. Seth Shostak
Seth Shostak
Seth Shostak is an American astronomer. He grew up in Arlington, VA and earned his physics degree from Princeton University and a Ph.D...

 is Senior Astronomer, and host of Are We Alone? The SETI Institute is headquartered in Mountain View, California
Mountain View, California
-Downtown:Mountain View has a pedestrian-friendly downtown centered on Castro Street. The downtown area consists of the seven blocks of Castro Street from the Downtown Mountain View Station transit center in the north to the intersection with El Camino Real in the south...


Funding supporters

Funding for SETI Institute programs comes from a variety of sources. Contrary to popular belief, no government funds are allocated for its SETI searches – these are financed entirely by private contributions. Other astrobiology research at the SETI Institute may be funded by NASA, the National Science Foundation
National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. Its medical counterpart is the National Institutes of Health...

, or other grants and donations. TeamSETI is the SETI Institute’s worldwide membership and support organization.

Carl Sagan Center

The SETI Institute employs over 50 researchers that study all aspects of the search for life, its origins, the environment in which life develops, and its ultimate fate. They include, in alphabetical order: Laurance Doyle
Laurance Doyle
Laurance R. Doyle is a scientist who received his PhD from the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg. He has worked at the SETI Institute since 1987 where he is a principal investigator and astrophysicist. His main area of study has been the formation and detection of extrasolar planets, but he...

, Peter Jenniskens
Peter Jenniskens
Petrus Matheus Marie Jenniskens is a Dutch astronomer and a senior research scientist at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute and at NASA Ames Research Center. He is an expert on meteor showers. Jenniskens is the author of the 790 page book "Meteor Showers and their Parent Comets"...

, Pascal Lee
Pascal Lee
Pascal Lee is co-founder and chairman of the Mars Institute, a planetary scientist at the SETI Institute, and the Principal Investigator of the Haughton-Mars Project at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California...

, and Franck Marchis
Franck Marchis
Franck Marchis , astronomer and planetary scientist, is best known for his discovery and characterization of multiple asteroids and its study of Io volcanism.The asteroid 6639 Marchis was named in his honor on April 4, 2007....


See also

  • SETI
    The search for extraterrestrial intelligence is the collective name for a number of activities people undertake to search for intelligent extraterrestrial life. Some of the most well known projects are run by the SETI Institute. SETI projects use scientific methods to search for intelligent life...

  • Project Phoenix
    Project Phoenix (SETI)
    Project Phoenix is a SETI project: a search for extraterrestrial intelligence by analyzing patterns in radio signals. It is run by the independently funded SETI Institute of Mountain View, California, USA....

  • Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence
    Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence
    Communication with extraterrestrial intelligence is a branch of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence that focuses on composing and deciphering messages that could theoretically be understood by another technological civilization. The best-known CETI experiment was the 1974 Arecibo message...

  • Active SETI
    Active SETI
    Active SETI is the attempt to send messages to intelligent aliens. Active SETI messages are usually in the form of radio signals. Physical messages like that of the Pioneer plaque may also be considered an active SETI message...

  • Wow! signal
    Wow! signal
    The Wow! signal was a strong narrowband radio signal detected by Dr. Jerry R. Ehman on August 15, 1977, while working on a SETI project at the Big Ear radio telescope of The Ohio State University then located at Ohio Wesleyan University's Perkins Observatory, Delaware, Ohio. The signal bore...

External links