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Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)

SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is a scientific effort to discover intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, primarily by attempting to discover radio signals that indicate intelligence. Cornell astronomer Frank Drake is credited with being the first to "listen" for intelligent signals with a radio telescope in 1960. Although NASA has funded some study in the past, current efforts are privately funded, in part by Arthur C. Clarke, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Intel founder Gordon Moore, and Hewlett-Packard cofounders David Packard and William Hewlett.

The SETI Institute's Project Phoenix is using computers to search about 1,000 stars within 200 light-years of our solar system for radio signals beamed toward us or any other location. Project Phoenix's 140-foot radio telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia aims at one star at a time while astronomer-monitored computers search each 1,000 band from 1,000 to 3,000 MHz for a signal limited to a narrowband range. Scientists believe that a signal focused within a narrow frequency band would suggest an intelligent source.

About two-thirds of the first 1,000 stars have been searched with no success yet reported. There are, however, over 400 billion stars in our own galaxy so the study may last quite a long time. The directors of the project are soliciting volunteers to help analyze the radio telescope data at their home computers.

This was last updated in March 2011

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