History of Seti Exoplanets Extraterrestrial Life

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With everybody talking about the so-called "SETI", you may be wondering about now exactly what is that? SETI, or Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, is the name for various activities which are carried out in an attempt to discover intelligent extraterrestrial life. The Institute was founded on November 20th, 1984, and employs over 150 scientists, educators and support staff. The SETI Institute is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to scientific research, education and public outreach.

The Institute wasn't officially founded until 1984, but various SETI programs existed as early as the 1960s. In 1960, astronomer Frank Drake of Cornell University performed the first modern SETI experiment. He used a 25-meter-diameter radio telescope located in Green Bank, WV to examine two stars: Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani. The famous SETI incident, referred to as the "Wow! signal" occurred on August 15, 1977. Dr. Jerry R. Ehman witnessed a shockingly strong signal by the telescope. He circled the indication on the printout, and quickly jotted down "Wow!" next to it. Although this happened once, a signal as strong was not detected ever again.

In 1961, the first SETI Conference, called "Order of the Dolphin", was held at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank, WV. Previously mentioned Dr. Drake introduces his invention - the Drake Equation (also called the "Green Bank equation", the "Green Bank Formula" or the "Sagan equation"), an equation which statistically estimates the number of advanced technological civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy. In 1966, the popular book "Intelligent Life in the Universe" was written by Dr. Carl Sagan and Dr. I.S. Shkolovskii.

In 1973, Ohio State University began a major SETI project at the Big Ear Observatory in Delaware, Ohio, and in 1977, the space probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are launched, carrying gold-plated records of images and sounds of Earth out into space. In 1981, another SETI conference was held (this time an international one) in Tallinn (now capital of Estonia), Soviet Union.

Finally, in 1982, NASA began incorporating their technology with SETI, and searched with the High Resolution Microwave Survey (HRMS). During the same year, Dr. George Gatewood conducted extrasolar planet searches at the Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh, PA. Only after all of these (and many more minor) events, was the SETI Institute finally founded in 1984. Initially, all Institute activities were supported by NASA. In 1985, the Mega-Channel Extraterrestrial Assay (Project META) began in Harvard Massachusetts at the Oak Ridge Observatory. It scanned 8.4 million 0.05 Hertz channels. Project META was sponsored by a grant from film director Steven Spielberg. In five years, Project META II was established outside Buenos Aires, Argentina, with the support of The Planetary Society (founded by Carl Sagan in 1980).

The Billion-Channel Extraterrestrial Assay (Project BETA) began SETI observations from the Harvard radio telescope, in Massachusetts, in 1995. During the same year, 51 Pegasi B was discovered - the first confirmed planet around a nearby Sun-like star. 51 Pegasi B was announced by Dr. Michel Mayor and Dr. Dedier Queloz. By the year 1999, the list of confirmed exoplanets has grown to over 20 planets.

In the same year, 1999, [email protected] was developed, a screen saver program that taps into the power of home computers, and has the potential of radically changing SETI program design in future ET searches.

As of today (2009), SETI has already located a total of 347 exoplanets.

More about this author: Edward M. Maclachlan

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