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Where in the Worlds has SETI Institute Been? June 5 - 11, 2017

Where in the Worlds has SETI Institute Been? June 5 - 11, 2017

Activity Report May 2017
Special Expanded Edition!
activity report May 2017


The Carl Sagan Center Activity Report for May 2017 is out and can be downloaded here The SETI Institute scientists have had a busy spring and here are some highlights:

  • 19 papers accepted or published in peer-reviewed journals such as The Astronomical Journal, Icarus and The Astrophysical Journal
  • SETI Institute scientists participated in conferences and events including the International Planetary Dunes Workshop, the Conference on Environmental Systems, the Planetary Defense Conference and the American Astronomical Society’s Division on Dynamical Astronomy Meeting
  • SETI Institute experts wrote for or were interviewed by popular media including The Verge, Newsweek, Time and NBC News
  • Public speaking events included presentations to students at several middle and high schools, appearances at Caltech and Stanford University and a talk at Denver Comic Con
  • Facebook Live events in May visited Janice Bishops minerology lab, joined Franck Marchis and Michael Busch at the Planetary Defense Conference in Tokyo and also went to Namibia with Bill Diamond. All our Facebook Live event videos can be viewed on the SETI Institute Facebook page.

star formationExoplanet or Star?

Last year an object 316 light years from Earth was discovered using the SPHERE imager of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. HD 131399 Ab, also known as Scorpion 1b, was initially classified as an exoplanet.

Now, a re-analysis of the data, as well as new data from the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) on the Gemini South Telescope, also located in Chile, raises new questions. SETI Institute Scientist Eric Nielsen was part of the team reviewing the data. “The analysis of the data reveals unexpected spectroscopic and astrometric results,” the team wrote in their paper. The new hypothesis is that Scorpion 1b is a dwarf star, and not a planet at all.


ET, alien balloons, planetsIf We Do Receive a Message, How Will We Know What it Says?

Frank Drake, President Emeritus of the SETI Institute, is perhaps best known for coming up with the Drake Equation which he developed to foster a discussion about the likelihood of intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. A pioneer of SETI research, Frank also wondered how we would understand an extraterrestrial message, should we detect one. In 1961, he created a test message to see if other people could decode it, which eventually, they did.

Now another researcher, Rene Heller from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research has repeated this exercise, this time, using social media – with quicker and similarly correct results.


radio telescopesStarTalk Radio

Neil deGrasse Tyson and SETI Institute Bernard M. Oliver Chair Jill Tarter the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, the Drake Equation, the movie Contact and more on June 6 episode of StarTalk Radio.

Wow signalThe “Wow!” Signal

Nearly 40 years ago an unexplained radio signal, known as the “Wow!” signal was detected by Jerry Ehman using Ohio State University’s Big Ear radio telescope. Last year, Antonio Paris and Evan Davies published a paper suggesting the signal was really caused by a comet.

The SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array (ATA) has participated in efforts to recover the “Wow!” signal, along with other radio telescopes including the Parkes radio telescope in Australia, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in West Virginia, and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Observations continue.

Some People Believe Aliens are Already Among Us

Robert Bigelow believes aliens are already here on Earth and is funding the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module that may in the future be used as work spaces, labs and living quarters in space. The module was launched last year and is attached to the International Space Station for testing.

SETI Institute Senior Astronomer Seth Shostak contends that there is no evidence of alien life, yet.


Seth Shostak, SETI Institute Senior Astronomer and host of the radio show Big Picture Science wonders whether humanity should exercise caution in sending messages to extraterrestrial intelligence saying in an interview with Futurism, “If danger exists, we’re already vulnerable.”

Seth’s skeptical thoughts about Ridley Scott’s movie, Alien are based on science.


DNA in a bottleBig Picture Science

Last week, encore presentation Gene-y in a Bottle wondered if you can change your own DNA. This week, Science Fiction finds out what it takes to make it in the world of, well, science fiction.


  • Smithsonian Magazine Future Con, June 16-18, 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.
  • SETI Talks: July 12, Palo Alto, CA SETI Talks return featuring Jill Tarter, Sarah Scoles, Eliot Gillum and more.
  • 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.

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