Yes you can participate in the Search for Extraterrestrial Life!-Silicon Valley Campus - Carnegie Mellon University

Yes you can participate in the Search for Extraterrestrial Life!

Ever wonder what SETI does behind closed doors? Now you can put that speculation to rest and help them examine data and participate in the search for extraterrestrial life.

Citizen Scientists are excited to get a glimpse into the data that SETI is collecting through the view of two informational displays. These two displays present the data collected from SETI’s Allen Telescope Array and essentially allow users to participate in the search for extraterrestrial life. The SETI Institute is a private, nonprofit organization with a mission to explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe.

This past spring, under the guidance of SETI scientists, a group of Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley (CMU-SV) students implemented two informational displays to project data in a visually appealing format. These data will be displayed on two large 55-inch LCD monitors setup at SETI Institute in their observation room. The project was dubbed “The World of SETI.”

CMU-SV requires all graduate students to embark in a “practicum” course to give students experience in working with a real client and going through the entire software process – from inception to release. The team named themselves “Team ALiENS” and consisted of graduate students Alan Mak, Anthony Tang, Dia Kharrat and Paul Wong.

Years ago, the SETI Institute relied mostly on humans to direct their searches for extraterrestrial life, with web-cams and other interesting setups for the world to see. People from all over the world were interested in the searches SETI was conducting. These people, whom SETI referred to as “Citizen Scientists” created a buzz about SETI and spurred interest, collaboration, and interaction from people around the globe! After years of technological improvements, these searches have become fully automated and only require human intervention during testing, or novel scientific research projects.

Because of this automation, the amount of involvement in SETI affairs by citizen scientists has dwindled to a fraction of what it used to be. The team from CMU-SV was tasked to develop displays, which linked the automated collection and crunching of data to visual displays fit for consumption by a common audience.

According to Jill Tarter, director of SETI Institute, The World of SETI’s purpose is to give insight in the searches that SETI conducts. The two displays give the user a complete picture of what and where SETI is collecting data. These two displays are a revolutionary way to display the data SETI collects with their Allen Telescope Array. It is not only informational, but also fun to watch.

The first display shows the user exactly where the beams are focused on and the various pieces of data that is collected from the Allen Telescope Array.

insert figure one here

The second display shows contextual information about the search to give viewers a sense of what else is in the field of search. The Google Sky map shows exactly where in the space SETI is pointing the telescopes, as well as information about what the beams areis currently looking at.

insert figure two here

SETI Institute invites everyone to come by the SETI headquarters during its colloquium session (http://www.seti.org/talks) to view the World of SETI and take part in the interesting research that is going on… maybe you can even find signs of intelligent life!