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Jill Tarter, Leader of Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Speaking at Foothill April 23

Status Report From: Ames Research Center
Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On Wednesday, April 23rd, at 7 pm, Astronomer Jill Tarter, of the SETI Institute, will give a non-technical, illustrated talk on:

The Allen Telescope Array: The Newest Pitchfork for Exploring the Cosmic Haystack

as part of the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures in the Smithwick Theater, Foothill College, El Monte Road and Freeway 280, in Los Altos Hills, California.

Free and open to the public. Parking on campus costs $2.

Call the series hot-line at 650-949-7888 for more information and driving directions.

No background in science will be required for this talk. Seating is first come, first served.

SETI -- the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence -- seeks evidence of technologies from civilizations among the stars to answer the age-old question "Are we alone?" The task is enormous --- it's often likened to looking for a needle in a haystack. Yet even that metaphor doesn't begin to describe how much searching may be needed to find our counterparts out there -- the cosmic haystack is at least nine-dimensional!

Dr. Tarter is Director of the Center for SETI Research, and the leader of the main project looking for radio signals from alien civilizations (she was the model for the character Jodi Foster played in the movie "Contact.") She will update us on the latest tools and plans in the SETI quest.

Digital technologies are making possible huge improvements in our search systems. The Allen Telescope Array, being constructed in Northern California as a partnership between the SETI Institute and the University of California Berkeley Radio Astronomy Lab, will be the most powerful tool for finding SETI signals ever built. It is an innovative radio telescope assembled from a large number of small dishes, using consumer off-the-shelf technologies whenever possible to minimize costs. In the next decade, this new 'pitchfork' will enable exploration of 1000 to 10,000 times more of the cosmic haystack than was searched in the previous decade. This may just be enough!

Dr. Tarter holds the Bernard Oliver Chair for SETI at the SETI Institute and is one of the best known astronomers in the world. Although she is best known for her SETI work, she also coined the term "brown dwarf" for an object that just misses being a star. In 2004, Time Magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Come early for this very special event in our series.

The lecture is co-sponsored by:

  • NASA Ames Research Center
  • The Foothill College Astronomy Program
  • The SETI Institute
  • The Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Past Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures are now available in MP3 format at: http://www.astrosociety.org/education/podcast/index.html

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