The search for cosmic company goes on

Posted by: Anovogratz

Cross-posted on Huffington Post When 2009 TED Prize winner Jill Tarter wished to “empower Earthlings everywhere to become active participants in the ultimate search for cosmic company,” we looked to the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array (ATA).

With this telescope, Jill’s vision, and the power of open-source initiatives, we were able to globalize the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Because we don’t know what a new signal will look like, it’s hard to create an algorithm to find it, and our own eyes actually work better than computers.

Regrettably, recent shortfalls in operations funding have put the Allen Telescope Array into a state of hibernation. While fundraising efforts are under way to remedy this situation, we must acknowledge this serious blow to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. There is, however, one silver lining: over the past two years, the ATA has stored many terabytes of data in the Amazon Web Services Cloud, and a significant signal might be hidden amid this information.

Working together, and sorting through this data, we could still find it!

In collaboration with Zooniverse, a site that has launched many other citizen science projects -– inspiring volunteers to classify galaxies, explore the Moon and even to discover planets around other stars -– millions of people will soon be able to search the ATA data in hopes of finding a signal.

I can’t express how excited I am that Zooniverse will be working with Jill Tarter and the SETI Institute to develop a project that will unlock the secrets of the ATA archive. And when the ATA comes back online, the volunteers can work alongside Jill’s team in real time to sort through much more data — data that contains so many signals, it actually confuses the computers.

While the project will require some time before it’s up and running, I urge each of you to get ready to share your eyes … and help dig for a signal.

– Amy Novogratz

Comments (3)

  • Plato Hagel commented on May 16 2011

    An Anomalous SETI Signal

    “Explanation: No one knows for sure what caused this signal. There is a slight possibility that it just might originate from an extraterrestrial intelligence. The bright colors on the blue background indicate that an anomalous signal was received here on Earth by a radio telescope involved in a Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). A search for these signals is ongoing by several groups including volunteer members of the SETI League. Time labels the vertical axis of the above plot, and frequency marks the horizontal axis. Although this strong signal was never positively identified, astronomers have identified in it many attributes characteristic of a more mundane and ultimately terrestrial origin. In this case, a leading possibility is that the signal originates from an unusual modulation between a GPS satellite and an unidentified Earth-based source. Many unusual signals from space remain unidentified. No signal has yet been strong enough or run long enough to be unambiguously identified as originating from an extraterrestrial intelligence.”

  • Plato Hagel commented on May 15 2011

    The Kardashev scale is a method of measuring an advanced civilization’s level of technological advancement. The scale is only theoretical and in terms of an actual civilization highly speculative; however, it puts energy consumption of an entire civilization in a cosmic perspective. It was first proposed in 1964 by the Soviet Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev. The scale has three designated categories called Type I, II, and III. These are based on the amount of usable energy a civilization has at its disposal, and the degree of space colonization. In general terms, a Type I civilization has achieved mastery of the resources of its home planet, Type II of its solar system, and Type III of its galaxy.[1]

    The original and the final draft for this particular scale had energy consumptions ranging so widely from each other, that Kardashev himself revised the scale as to include values between, in hundredths. The human civilization as of 2010 is currently somewhere around 0.72, with calculations suggesting we may attain Type I status in about 100–200 years, Type II status in a few thousand years, and Type III status in about 100,000 to a million years.[2] See:

  • Plato Hagel commented on May 15 2011

    Alien language is a generic term used to describe a possible language originating from a hypothetical alien species. The study of such a hypothetical language has been termed xenolinguistics, although alternative terminology such as exolinguistics has found its way into use through the medium of science fiction. See: