New Horizons in Science

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SETI: Bringing a neglected field of astronomy in from the cold

Topic: Astronomy
Allen Telescope Array.
Allen Telescope Array.
Monday, October 28, 2019 -
9:30am to 10:30am

The search for extraterrestrial life (SETI) has long been treated as a problem child of astronomy, and it has been deprived of significant government support for decades. But SETI made a move into the mainstream last winter when U.S. astronomers came together to prepare a report for the National Academies describing how the NSF and NASA could support the field next decade. One of those orchestrating that move was Jason Wright. Wright's nascent PSETI Center (Penn State ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence Center) will leverage private gifts to fund SETI research and fold it into Penn State's existing astrobiology graduate curriculum. Wright argues that the search for alien intelligence or "technosignatures" should not be a fringe activity; rather, he believes SETI scientists will help find answers to important questions about astrophysics and the cosmos in the age of multimessenger astronomy. He will describe new SETI research that is providing imaginative hypotheses for powerful new instruments to probe. "It's the unexpected," Wright says, "that's often the most important thing."


Allen Telescope Array. Image: Jbrew (CC BY-SA 2.0)


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