Subscribe to receive SETI Institute news weekly in your inbox.

SETI Institute in the news June 7 -13, 2018

SETI Institute in the news June 7 -13, 2018

ultima thule
Ultima Thule
New Horizons Awake and Approaching Ultima Thule

Recently revived after a five-month scheduled hibernation, NASA’s New Horizons is preparing for its encounter with the farthest world explored yet by humankind. The target is a Kuiper Belt object, which New Horizons will fly past to study on January 1, 2019. While it retains its official designation of 486958) 2014 MU69, it was nicknamed Ultima Thule (which means "beyond the known world”) in a public naming campaign organized by SETI Institute Senior Research Scientist and Fellow, Mark Showalter, as noted by

“We would like to use a more memorable nickname when we talk about our target body,” Mark Showalter, member of the SETI Institute and the New Horizons science team, said at the time.

The nickname “Ultima Thule” will be used until a formal name is submitted to the International Astronomical Union, depending on the specific features of the object (or cluster of objects) upon study. Until then, New Horizons will go through a series of systems checks and other preparations, with preliminary data on Ultima Thule expected as early as August.
You can learn more about Ultima Thule and Mark Showalter’s work on our website, You can also watch a recent interview featuring Alan Stern and David Grinspoon on the New Horizons mission to Pluto on our Facebook page.

TESSDetecting Exoplanets with Doug Caldwell

SETI Institute scientist Doug Caldwell appeared on the NASA in Silicon Valley Podcast to discuss his work with the Kepler Space Telescope and the new exoplanet-hunting space telescope, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Caldwell spoke about his experience getting started with NASA, and what the future may hold for TESS. Doug Caldwell Talks About the Data Pipeline for the TESS Mission

Enrico FermiWhere’s ET?

While the SETI Institute strives to answer the profound question, “are we alone?”, the Femi Paradox could be summed up more bluntly: “where is everybody?”. That question haunted physicist Enrico Fermi as he pondered the baffling silence of the cosmos, and many since. Writing for NBC’s Mach, the SETI Institute’s Senior Astronomer, Seth Shostak, reviewed a recent attempt to explain the paradox. Physicist A.A. Barezin takes a rather dark approach to explaining the cosmic silence, according to Shostak:

He presumes that at some point in the 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang, an extraterrestrial civilization managed to develop the capability to travel between the stars. Soon thereafter, they embarked on a project to spread out. But as they — or their robot underlings — took over the galaxy, they eradicated everyone else. Some of this might have been inadvertent, in the same way that construction crews mindlessly obliterate ants.
Grim though this sounds, Shostak isn’t overly concerned that the citizens of the galaxy are doomed:

Berezin’s idea of how to resolve the puzzle presented by the Fermi Paradox seems neither more convincing nor more plausible than many of the others. It replaces one paradox with another by arguing that the galaxy is, indeed, inhabited everywhere by a pervasive culture that presumably sprang up billions of years ago but somehow manages to evade all our detection efforts.

Given that even galactic conquerors have yet to leave a detectable trace, this new answer to the Fermi Paradox at least serves to prompt the imagination and further questions. 

NBC News: If Space Aliens Are out There, Why Haven't We Found Them?

multiple univserseImagining Our Neighbors in the Multiverse

Following an article for NBC’s Mach by Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute, regarding recently published papers exploring the idea of multiple universes – and the possibility that alien life might exist not merely on another world, but another cosmos – other outlets have been covering the story. EarthSky turned to Shostak’s Mach article to break what is a complex and mind-boggling theory:
The idea that other universes might exist arises from the realization that the Big Bang might not have been a unique event but a common one. How common? Stanford University physicists Andrei Linde and Vitaly Vanchurin have estimated that the number of unique parallel universes – ones that are independent of the cosmos you know and adore – could be written as a one followed by 10 thousand trillion zeroes. That’s not a number that has a name, and certainly not one you will ever encounter in the real world. I figure it would require 10 billion notebooks just to write this number down.
So, to paraphrase Jodie Foster’s character in the movie Contact, if our cosmos is the only one with life, then that’s an awful waste of universes.
While the existence of the multiverse is still unproven, it’s certainly a compelling idea that scientists and science fiction fans alike enjoy pondering.

Big Picture Science

Last week’s episode explored the planets of our solar system and the new technologies illuminating them in Imagining Planets. This week, science clashes with the “scientifical” in Skeptic Check: Flat Earth.

Facebook Live

On last week’s Facebook Live, astrobiologist and 2018 Drake Award recipient Dr. Victoria Meadows was interviewed by SETI Institute CEO, Bill Diamond. Our previous episode featured SETI Institute research scientist Elliot Gillum and Senior Planetary Astronomer Franck Marchis discussing the status of LaserSETI, an audacious project to look for laser flashes from deep space.

Videos of all past Facebook Live events can be found on our Facebook page:


Recent Articles