Stories, updates, insights, and original analysis from The Planetary Society.
If you were a member of an alien civilization trying to communicate across the immeasurable distances of space, how would you go about it?
Just when SETI@home is celebrating its 10th anniversary, its older brother, Project SERENDIP, is getting a general makeover.
One of the youngest off-springs of SETI@home has been getting a great deal of attention recently. Known as the Quake-Catcher Network (QCN), this distributed computing project makes use of thousands of volunteers' computers to locate and track earthquakes.
In the beginning was SETI@home, the first large-scale volunteer computing project, launched in 1999 with seed money from The Planetary Society. Within months the project had millions of volunteers around the world joining to form the most powerful computer network ever assembled.
A fully formed planetary system, with five different planets of varying sizes and orbits has been found, orbiting a star more than 40 light years away. Significantly, it is the very same star, 55 Cancri, that was one of the chief targets of the SETI@home reobservations at Arecibo in March 2003.
The Planetary Society's Optical SETI Telescope was built solely to search for possible light signals from alien civilizations. Located at Oak Ridge Observatory in Harvard, Massachusetts, it is the first dedicated Optical SETI telescope in the world. Its 72-inch primary mirror also makes it larger than any optical telescope in the U.S. east of the Mississippi river.
Winter time is observing time at the Oak Ridge Observatory in Massachusetts, when humidity is low and the sky is often clear. And so it has been for the Optical SETI telescope, which opened its doors in April 2006.
Located in the southern part of the continent of South America, Southern SETI has a continuous view of densest star-fields in our galaxy. And, since 1990, it has been sponsored and supported by The Planetary Society.
Andrew Howard talks about the
In seven intense days spent at the radio telescope Chief scientist Dan Werthimer and his colleagues completely overhauled the way SETI data is gathered at Arecibo, and ensured that SETI@home will henceforth enjoy the benefits of gathering data with the most advanced equipment anywhere in the world.
During a few observation sessions in late April, the new Optical SETI Telescope was already demonstrating its amazing capabilities. Over three nights, the telescope completed 17 hours of observation, under the direction of Paul Horowitz and his team of Harvard graduate students. During that time, the telescope observed 1% of the sky, looking for the briefest flashes of light coming from outer space.
Planetary Society members truly have helped pioneer new techniques in the conduct of science. Our initial investment has returned amazing results that will continue to deliver benefits over years to come.
On April 11, 2006, a new era dawned in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) with the dedication and beginning of operations of The Planetary Society Optical SETI Telescope in Harvard, Massachusetts. It is the first devoted optical SETI telescope in the world. The telescope was constructed by Paul Horowitz and his group at Harvard University using funding from Planetary Society members.
Candidate signals sent in by users around the world will be quickly analyzed and compared to existing signals.
As SETI@home has demonstrated, untold millions around the world are ready and eager to donate their computer time for the advancement of knowledge and the benefit of humankind. The story of distributed computing is only just beginning.
BOINC stands for the “Berkeley Online Infrastructure for Network Computing.” Its purpose is to spread the credo of distributed computing beyond SETI@home, by making it easy for researchers in all fields to launch their own projects, and tap into the enormous computing capacity of personal computers around the world.
Faster and more regular sky surveys, at an increased sensitivity and broader bandwidth, will push the boundaries of SETI to new and unexplored territories.
It has been more than a year since the SETI@home crew spent a hectic week at Arecibo, pointing the giant radio telescope at some of SETI's most promising targets. Much of the data collected during the reobservations has since been repackaged as work units, and sent out to users around the world for analysis.
SETI@home and BOINC are gradually converging, and the benefits for both are substantial. While SETI@home enjoys the increased flexibility of the BOINC platform, it brings to BOINC something of inestimable value to a distributed computing project: millions of SETI@home users, willing to use their computers' processing power for the advancement of scientific research.
SETI@home chief scientist Dan Werthimer and his team went back to Arecibo to reobserve the most promising candidate signals detected by the project so far. Unlike most of the year, when SETI@home piggy-backs on the regular operations of the telescope, this time the Werthimer's crew had the full use of the resources of the giant dish.