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SETI: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

SETI, or the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is a scientific effort aiming to determine if there is intelligent life out in the universe. There are many methods that SETI scientific teams use to search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Many of these search billions of radio frequencies that flood the universe, looking for another civilization that might be transmitting a radio signal. Other SETI teams search by looking for signals in pulses of light emanating from the stars.

articles & documents

A SETI Dialog

SETI League

The following questions were posed to SETI League executive director H. Paul Shuch, by Manchester University's Prof. Ian Morison, coordinator of SETI activities at the Nuffield Radio Astronomy Laboratories, Jodrell Bank. R

Alien Investigators: A Look at the SETI Institute

Space.com, 09 May 2000

Based in Mountain View, California, the SETI institute is the most prominent organization involved in the search for intelligent life beyond Earth.  R

Allen Telescope Array: SETI's Next Big Step

Alan M. MacRobert

SETI researchers have long had to beg time on instruments built for conventional radio astronomy. Now they're building one of their own. Its capabilities will be eye-popping.

Can SETI Succeed: Carl Sagan and Ernst Mayr Debate

Here we present both sides of the philosophical and scientific debate. First, one of the most prominent evolutionary specialists of this century, Ernst Mayr of Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology, delivers the main arguments of the uniqueness hypothesis. Mayr notes that, since they are based on facts, the various degrees of uniqueness are a problem for SETI, not a hypothesis. The late Carl Sagan of The Planetary Society and Cornell University's Laboratory of Planetary Studies responds to Mayr's statements and expresses the optimist's view.

Is anyone out there? The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

The Guardian (U.K.), January 22, 2003

The search for extraterrestrial life grips the human imagination because it tells us about ourselves. R

My 40 Years of SETI

Philip Morrison


Mysteries of Wow

Seth Shostak, SETI Institute, Astrobiology Magazine

In August 1977, a sky survey conducted with Ohio State University's "Big Ear" radio telescope found what has become known as the 'Wow' signal. Registering an enormous signal strength, the shape of the signal had the characteristic rise and fall expected for its short 72 second lifetime. But a hitch remains: the signal has not been retrieved from other sky surveys, making it more anomaly than confirmable cosmic source. R

Scientists Hunt For Light Flashes From Extraterrestrial Civilizations

Adapted from a SETI Institute press release

Astronomers are broadening the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) by looking for powerful light pulses coming from other star systems. R

SETI and the Search for Life

Christopher F. Chyba, SETI Institute

Excerpts from the written testimony submitted by Christopher F. Chyba, SETI Institute, to the "Life in the Universe" hearings held by the House Subcommitee on Space and Aeronautics on July 12, 2001. R

SETI Searches Today

Alan M. MacRobert

Bigger and better hunts than ever are seeking radio and laser emissions from other civilizations. Here’s a rundown of all the searches now under way worldwide, comparing the capabilities of each.

SETI: The Radio Search

Ron Hipschman

Smarter SETI Strategy

Nathan Cohen and Robert Hohlfeld

Why the world’s biggest search should rethink its strategy and why the first signal we hear will come from an extremely powerful civilization extremely far away.  R

The Chance of Finding Aliens

Govert Schilling and Alan M. MacRobert

In 1961 the Drake Equation put the search for alien civilizations on a scientific footing and launched the modern SETI movement. How do its numbers look today? What is the chance of finding aliens?

The Future of SETI

Seth Shostak

Searches for extraterrestrial intelligence are about to expand into new realms, thanks to new advances in technology and new thinking.

The Quest for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Carl Sagan, Cosmic Search Vol. 1 No. 2

A masterful overview of SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, and its meaning to humanity - a classic. R

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Carl Sagan and Frank Drake, Scientific American, 1997

Is mankind alone in the universe? Or are there somewhere other intelligent beings looking up into their night sky from very different worlds and asking the same kind of question? Are there civilizations more advanced than ours, civilizations that have achieved interstellar communication and have established a network of linked societies throughout our galaxy? Such questions, bearing on the deepest problems of the nature and destiny of mankind, were long the exclusive province of theology and speculative fiction. Today for the first time in human history they have entered into the realm of experimental science. R

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence - SETI

NASA - edited by Philip Morrison, MIT, John Billingham and John Wolfe, NASA Ames

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence: A Short History

Amir Alexander, The Planetary Society

Read about the scientific paper that launched the modern search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and about Project Ozma - the first radio search. Learn about support from NASA and opposition from Congress, the long years of waiting, and the tantalizing "Wow!" signal. Follow the visionaries and the skeptics, the dreamers and the realists, as they search for the holy grail that would change human history - contact with an alien civilization!

The Search for Life in the Universe

Neil deGrasse Tyson, to the House Subcommitee on Space and Aeronautics

Neil deGrasse Tyson discusses the search for life in the Universe. Are we alone? R

UFOs: Challenge to SETI Specialists

Stanton T. Friedman

Major news media and many members of the scientific community have taken strongly to the radio-telescope based SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program as espoused by its charismatic leaders, but not supported by any evidence whatsoever. In turn, perhaps understandably, they feel it necessary to attack the ideas of alien visitors (UFOs) as though they were based on tabloid nonsense instead of on far more evidence than has been provided for SETI. R

websites & organizations

Project Phoenix (SETI Institute)

Project Phoenix is the world's most sensitive and comprehensive search for extraterrestrial intelligence. It is an effort to detect extraterrestrial civilizations by listening for radio signals that are either being deliberately beamed our way, or are inadvertently transmitted from another planet. Phoenix is the successor to the ambitious NASA SETI program that was cancelled by a budget-conscious Congress in 1993.

SERENDIP - The UC Berkeley SETI Program

The UC Berkeley SETI Program, SERENDIP (Search for Extraterrestrial Radio Emissions from Nearby Developed Intelligent Populations) is an ongoing scientific research effort aimed at detecting radio signals from extraterrestrial civilizations. The project is the world's only "piggyback" SETI system, operating alongside simultaneously conducted conventional radio astronomy observations. SERENDIP is currently piggybacking on the 1,000-foot dish at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, the largest radio telescope in the world. SERENDIP is dedicated to providing an answer to the age-old question "Are we alone?"


SETI@home is one of the SETI projects that searches for extraterrestrial life. SETI@home allows anyone with a computer and an Internet connection to take part in the search. By using the computer while the owner is away, the SETI@home screensaver is able to search for extraterrestrial signals.

Sky & Telescope Magazine - SETI Section

News and backgrounders on the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence and other topics on life in the universe.

The SETI Institute

The SETI Institute serves as an institutional home for scientific and educational projects relevant to the nature, distribution, and prevalence of life in the universe. The Institute conducts and/or encourages research and related activities in a large number of fields including, but not limited to, all science and technology aspects of astronomy and the planetary sciences, chemical evolution, the origin of life, biological evolution, and cultural evolution. The Institute also has a primary goal to conduct and encourage public information and education related to these topics.

The SETI League

The SETI League is a grassroots, international alliance of amateur and professional radioastronomers, radio amateurs, microwave experimenters and digital signal processing enthusiasts, who have banded together in a systematic, scientific search of the heavens to detect credible evidence of intelligent, extra-terrestrial life.