Where in the Worlds has SETI Institute Been? May 8 - 14, 2017

Special Expanded Edition!

It’s time again for a more comprehensive review of the work that has been going on at the SETI Institute. The complete Carl Sagan Center Activity Report for April 2017 can be downloaded here, and here are some highlights:

  • 15 papers accepted or published in peer-reviewed journals including the American Astronomical Journal, the Astrophysical Journal and Icarus on topics such as a possible Venus twin in orbit around Kepler-1649, Orbits for the Impatient, the Final Kepler Planet Candidate Catalog, broadband photometry of Neptune from K2, and dynamical phenomena at the inner edge of the Keeler gap
  • More than 30 SETI Institute scientists contributed presentations at the Astrobiology Science Conference in Mesa, Arizona, where the theme was “Diverse Life and its Detection on Different Worlds.” This included the SETI Institute NAI team that presented 15 papers, including 11 oral presentations and 4 posters.
  • SETI Institute experts wrote for, or were interviewed by popular media including Discover Magazine, NBC News, and Science.
  • Public speaking events included Silicon Valley Comic Con, where several SETI Institute scientists spoke and presented, Fullerenes in Space workshop at the University of Edinburgh, Astronomy on Tap in San Francisco, the Conference on World Affairs, the Cambridge Science Festival, and Breakthough Discuss.
  • Facebook Live events in April explored how the SETI Institute is applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to its SETI research, Cassini’s mission to Saturn, and NASA’s New Horizons. All our Facebook Live event videos can be viewed on the SETI Institute Facebook page.

The Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon) and the Search for Life on Mars

The theme of this year’s AbSciCon was “Diverse Life and its Detection on Different Worlds.” Topics explored were wide-ranging, planetary chemistry to environmental evolution to metabolisms utilized by life. And, of course, extreme environments and Mars exploration and Mars analog sites on Earth.

In an article about AbSciCon in Scientific American, SETI Institute scientist and Director of the Carl Sagan Center Nathalie Cabrol stressed the importance of understanding day-to-day weather Mars to help identify potential habitats for microbial life.

Scientific American: The Search for Life on Mars Is about to Get Weird

Aliens: The World’s Leading Scientists on the Search for Extraterrestrial Life

Two SETI Institute scientists, Nathalie Cabrol, Director of the Carl Sagan Center and Senior Astronomer Seth Shostak contributed essays to Jim Al-Khalili’s new book, Aliens. Nathalie’s essay, “What Are We Looking For?” explores some of the challenges – what life are we actually searching for, where did it come from and where do we look for it? Seth’s contribution, “What Next? The Future of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence” talks about SETI research and some of its implications. 

Time Magazine: Why Real Scientists Think Aliens Would Never Eat Humans

NPR/1A: The Scientific Search for Alien Existence

Exoplanets Galore

Discover Magazine explores the different ways more and more exoplanets are being discovered and why these discoveries continue to be important. The Kepler mission has played an important role in exoplanet discovery, having detected more than 2,200 exoplanets to-date.

Kepler uses the transit method to detect exoplanets, measuring the dimming of a star when an orbiting planet passes between Earth and that star. Dimming patterns can suggest the presence of a planet.

Douglas Caldwell, SETI Institute scientist and Instrument Scientist for the Kepler Mission discussed the process and some of what has been learned.

Discover Magazine: World Weary? The Best is Yet to Come

Humans to Mars Summit

The Humans to Mars Summit is a conference that addresses technical, scientific and policy challenges or putting human beings on Mars. This year the conference was held May 9-11 in Washington D.C. SETI Institute planetary scientist Pascal Lee spoke about the potential health risks that will be faced by Mars astronauts including carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, freezing temperatures, dust and radiation. 

Space.com: Boiling Blood and Radiation: 5 Ways Mars Can Kill 

First-Ever SETI Institute Fellows

The first-ever SETI Institute Fellows, recognized for their extraordinary contributions to scientific research and STEM education and outreach, were announced: Director of Education Edna DeVore, Senior Astronomer Seth Shostak, and Senior Scientist Mark Showalter.

SETI.org: Announcing the First-Ever SETI Institute Fellows

Space Daily: First SETI Institute Fellows Announced

PhysicsWorld.com: Flash Physics: Diamonds emit randomly polarized photons, LHCb reveals flawed model, SETI names first fellows

SETI Institute, Data Science and IBM Tools

IBM announced that it will make available a collaborative workspace for private clouds for organizations and data scientists working with sensitive data, making it easier and faster to collaborate on analytic models and deliver insights. The SETI Institute has been working with IBM as they have been developing this product, using IBM tools monitor and analyze signals between planets and stars to gauge the existence of life.

Computer Business Review: IBM Cloud claim AI & deep learning performance wins

IT Business Net: IBM Extends Data Science Collaborative Workspace to the Private Cloud

Read It Quik: IBM Launches Data Science Experience Local 

Testimony Before the U.S. House Committee for Science, Space and Technology

On April 26 SETI Institute Senior Astronomer Seth Shostak testified to the House Committee for Science, Space and Technology.  Among other topics, Seth estimated that in the next 20 years, technological advances will allow us to look “at about a million other star systems” and will likely “find E.T. within two dozen years.”

Inquisitr: Hunting for Alien Civilizations: SETI to Survey a Million Star Systems in Next 20 Years

Syfy Wire: This is How SETI Plans to Find Alien Life by 2037

Big Picture Science

Last week, Time on Your Side considered whether it’s possible to reverse the march of time when it comes to aging. This week, 100% Invisible, an encore presentation, wonders how we know whether things we can’t see are real or not.


Senior Astronomer and host of Big Picture Science Seth Shostak estimates we’ll find an alien signal within the next 24 years in 5 Cosmic Questions Scientists Still Can’t Answer Completely. Seth questions Ridley Scott’s ideas about alien life in Hostile Aliens Will Destroy Us: Scientist Says Assuming Extraterrestrials Are Evil Conquerors is Unfounded and What Does the Director of ‘Alien’ Think About Aliens?

May is a busy time for Seth: he participated on a panel about the social consequences of artificial intelligence at Xponential, a major symposium for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International in Dallas, Texas, gave an invited talk on SETI at a special JPL symposium held at Caltech, honoring JPL researcher Sam Gulkis, and will give several SETI talks in Copenhagen later in the month.


IAA Planetary Defense Conference: May 15-19, 2017, Tokyo, Japan This bi-annual conference brings together world experts to discuss the threat to Earth posed by asteroids and comets and actions that might be taken to deflect a threatening object.  SETI Institute scientists Michael Busch and Franck Marchis will participate. 

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute: June 1, 2017, Santa Clara, CA Edna DeVore, Director of the Education at the SETI Institute will help people get prepared for this summer’s total eclipse of the sun which will take place on August 21, 2017.

Spacefest: June 8-11, 2017, Tucson, AZ. An annual event that brings the space community together. Pascal Lee and Seth Shostak of SETI Institute will be speaking. 

Machine Learning 4 SETI Hackathon, June 10-11, San Francisco, CA The SETI Institute invites all citizen data scientists and technologists to join us as collaborators in our mission to find radio signals from intelligence beyond our solar system. 

Dynamical Astronomy Meeting of the American Astronomical Society: June 11-15, London, UK SETI Institute Scientist Matija Cuk will chair a session on Planetary Formation and System Architecture. 

Smithsonian Magazine Future Con, June 16-16, Washington D.C. Bringing science fiction and fantasy together with serious science and cutting-edge technology. Seth Shostak with be a speaker.

Starmus Festival IV, June 18-23, 2017, Trondheim, Norway A celebration of science and the arts. Presenters will include Jill Tarter, Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI at the SETI Institute and Nathalie Cabrol, Director of the Carl Sagan Center for Research at the SETI Institute

Kepler & K2 SciCon IV: June 19-23, Moffett Field, CA SETI Institute scientists including Jeffrey Coughlin will participate 

Virtual Reality in Space: The Next Big Thing: July 12, San Francisco, CA Franck Marchis will participate in a discussion about ways in which virtual reality might play a role in space exploration. 

Starship Congress 2017, August 7-9, Monterey, CA. A conference that explores pathways to allow human exploration of the galaxy. Franck Marchis will give a presentation.