Historically there have been two ETI search strategies. The first of the two,
though not the first to evolve, being the orthodox, 'offical' scientific search
known popularly as 'SETI', or the
'Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence'.
The second search model, if it can actually be called a 'search model', is
known loosely as 'UFOology', and is not recognized as a scientific search, but is
very popular with the general lay public. We'll discuss the scientific search first.
In 1959 the scientific SETI movement got its start. Here is a synopsis of
that movement; which was researched and collated by Robert Owen and who
presented it in the public domain via the old SETI-League 'Open' list which was
owned by Bob Cutter..
Document is unmodified except as denoted by website author, and is indicated using:
'[OSR]'. Document also contains minor editing and
formatting for webpage presentation as well as external URL reference links.
"SETI Chronology" is used with permission of author, Robert M. Owen.
SETI Chronology Author
Robert M. Owen
The Orion Institute
57 W. Morgan Street
Brevard, NC 28712-3659 USA
Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence - SETI
A Brief Chronology
~ Philip Morrison and Guiseppe Coconni publish "
Searching for Interstellar Communication
" in Nature magazine.
~ The first SETI search, Project OZMA, is conducted by Frank Drake
and Bernard Oliver at Greenbank Observatory in Greenbank, West
~ The optical approach to SETI using continuous wave laser
beacons is proposed by Schwartz and C. Townes (Professor Townes, a Nobel
prize winner and inventor of the LASER).
~ The Greenbank Conference for the Search for Extraterrestrial Life
take place at the Greenbank Observatory. Carl Sagan, Frank Drake
and other leaders in SETI take part.
~ Carl Sagan and I. S. Shkolovskii write "Intelligent Life in the Universe".
~ Carl Sagan, Frank Drake, and Phil Morrison join Russian scientists at
the US-USSR SETI Conference in Byurakan, Armenia, Soviet Union.
~ The Pioneer Plaques, (created by
Jon Lomberg, at the bequest of Dr. Carl Sagan) contain messages about Earth and its
inhabitants destined for points beyond our solar system, are launched
Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 spacecraft.
~ The Voyager Interstellar Gold Record Plaques, (created by
Jon Lomberg, at the bequest of Dr. Carl Sagan) containing several types of messages
aswell as audio recordings about Earth and its
inhabitants destined for points beyond our solar system, are launched
Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft.
is founded by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman (JPL --Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
Pasadena, California, USA).
~ The Search for Extraterrestrial Radio from Nearby Developed Populations
(Project SERENDIP I) launches at Hat Creek Observatory, UC-B.
~ The Proxmire Amendment kills NASA support of SETI
~ International SETI Conference, Talliinn, Soviet Union. Because the
Proxmire Amendment prevented US scientists to participate, The
Planetary Society sends US delegates to the international meeting.
~ The Planetary Society begins strong advocacy for NASA to conduct
searches for extraterrestrial signals. Carl Sagan, then president of the Society
meets with Senator Proxmire to help convince him to stop opposing
government funding for SETI.
~ NASA begins SETI searches with High Resolution Microwave Survey (HRMS).
~ George Gatewood conducts first extrasolar planet search at Allegheny
Observatory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
~ Paul Horowitz's suitcase SETI is tested at the
Arecibo radio telescope.
~ The International Astronomical Union establishes Commission 51,
dedicated to bioastronomy and the search for extraterrestrial life.
~ Samuel Gulkis and
Thomas Kuiper begin
a southern hemisphere search using the 64-meter DSN antenna, Australia;
focus: water vapor lines.
~ Michael Papagiannis launches Bioastronomy News, the official newsletter
of the International Astronmical Union's Commission 51.
~ Paul Horowitz launches Project Sentinel using the 26-meter-diameter
(84-foot) radio telescope at Harvard Massachusetts.
~ The SETI Institute
is founded as a home for research investigating all
aspects of life in the Universe, with most support coming from NASA. SETI Institute
is intransitive to other non-narrow band search strategies[OSR].
~ The Mega-Channel Extraterrestrial Assay (Project META) begins at the
Oak Ridge Observatory
in Harvard Massachusetts, scanning 8.4 million
0.05 Hz channels. The launch was sponsored by a generous grant from
film director Steven Spielberg. Spielberg later consults
Dr. Jacques Vallee to
create his epic ET visitation film, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", in
which Spielberg depicts Dr. Vallee, the real-life model of Francois Truffaut
in the film.
~ Ohio State University begins the Project "Big Ear" search at Columbus.
~ UC-Berkeley’s SERENDIP II begins to scan the skies.
~ Robert Stephens begins a Canadian search from the Hay River Radio
Observatory, Hay River, Northwest Territories, Canada.
~ The Planetary Society organizes an international meeting on SETI in
~ The Planetary Society takes over the publishing of Bioastronomy News
as one of its special-interest newsletters.
~ The Columbus Optical SETI (COSETI)
Observatory, developed by OSETI pioneer Dr. Stuart A. Kingsley, becomes
the first optical SETI research facility in North America.
~ Project META II launches outside Buenos Aires, Argentina, with
funding from the Planetary Society.
~ UC Berkeley launches SERENDIP III.
~ NASA’s High Resolution Microwave Survey (HRMS) is launched at Goldstone
Observatory outside Barstow, California and at the Arecibo radio telescope in
~ Dr. Stuart Kingsley organizes the first OSETI Conference, sponsored by
The International Society For Optical Engineering (SPIE).
~ US Congress stops NASA (public) funding for High Resolution Microwave
Search (HRMS) SETI search.
~ The SETI Institute launches Project Phoenix, using the
210-foot Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia, the largest
radio telescope in the southern hemisphere. Phoenix is the successor to the
ambitious NASA SETI program that was cancelled by a budget-conscious Congress
~ The Billion-Channel Extraterrestrial Assay Project (BETA) begins scanning
the skies from the Harvard radio telescope in Massachusetts.
~ OSETI II, the second SPIE Conference, is held under the direction of
Dr. Stuart Kingsley.
~ Project Argus, launched by the SETI-League began searching,
Search Strategy on Earth Day, April 21, 1996, with five operational radio
telescopes. By September, 1999, 81 stations in 16 countries and 27 of the
United States were actively participating. The ultimate goal is 5,000 small
dish corellated SETI search, which would provide near Earth all-sky SETI
search. The SETI League is directed by Dr. Paul Shuch for
SETI League president and philanthropist Richard C. Factor.
~ The Planetary Society funds Project SERENDIP IV at UC-Berkeley.
~ After being shut down for one year due to equipment upgrades
funded by the Planetary Society, a more powerful Project META II
resumes sky searches in Argentina.
~ At the University of California, Berkeley, Leuschner Observatory, the
Optical SETI Pulse Search, directed by Dan Werthimer, begins.
~ Optical SETI is becoming accepted by the SETI establishment
previously dominated by radio astronomers who had questioned
the viability of OSETI as a search mode; both The SETI Institute
and The Planetary Society now support searching for light signals.
~ The Harvard/Smithsonian Optical SETI program, directed by Harvard's
Paul Horowitz, becomes operational at the Oak Ridge Observatory.
implements a 'screen-saver' program that taps into the often unused power of
personal computers while they are idle.
This project out of Berkeley University, Berkeley California, USA, uses the
personal computer during the time the user or other processes are not.
Designed for public participation, this post
(after) acquisition search schema implements a 'screen-saver' program that
'crunches' data downloaded via an InterNet server whose source is the Arecibo
Radio Astronomy Observatory located in Puerto Rico. The program reduces or
'crunches' blocks of raw SETI data while searching for evidence of ETI 'hits'
in the data. The data blocks processed are about 300K bytes in size and the
program uses 16M bytes of RAM while running. The CPU time required to process
each block can be anywhere between hours and weeks depending upon hardware
performance and user's system usage behavior. It is very clever idea and one
that may well prove to be of some value to the narrow band SETI search effort.[OSR]
The Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence
(SETI) simply stated, is a
scientific search for technical signatures or 'indications' of the existance
of extraterrestrial intelligence located outside Earth's solar system.
Formally, SETI is perceived as being a narrow-band electromagnetic search.
This specific search type is a process of 'listening' for either microwave
(~2.0 gHz to ~4.0 gHz microwave) radio signals or more recently, optical
signals hopefully transmitted by other intelligent specis which are
speculated to be located in the Milky Way galaxy. (Earth's solar system and
the Earth are also located within the Milky Way Galaxy.) These hoped for
narrow band electromagnetic 'beams' would be transmitted by an ET
civilization using a very stable, coherent (monochromatic or not-varying)
Several microwave SETI signal search efforts tune their radio astronomy SETI
receivers to the so-called
frequency, with the implication being that an ET civilization would know that
most of the Universe is Hydrogen and that it is the most primitive element
makes it a "special frequency" and that the number of the frequency of the
received ET radio signal energy would be part of the intelligence 'encoded'
in the 'message'.
Narrow-band, microwave SETI search hardware simply described, are comprised of
microwave antennae (similar in appearance to a consumer satellite dish) and
microwave receivers. The larger the diameter (aperature) of the antenna the
further away, or deeper in space, a signal may be detected. There are
essentially three types of 'narrow band' or microwave/optical SETI search
being commonly conducted today:
- The SETI Institute, uses vary large dish antennae (such as the
Arecibo Radio Astronomy Observatory,
Puerto Rico) to 'peer' or 'listen' more deeply into the galaxy for
signatures of ETI signals.
- The SETI League, and their
implement small microwave (satellite) dish antennae, with
commercial off the shelf (COTS),
Amateur Radio receivers, coupled with personal computers (PC) and
software to 'peer' or listen 'out-to' approximately 14 LYs (Light Years) to
about 200 LYs into the galaxy from Earth. Competency of
builder, equipment deployed and calibration technique determine the depth-of-space
which may be searched. Typically it is thought that the
'average' Project Argus Station can
easily detect and 'listen-to' signals out to about 50 LYs distance from Earth.
The basic amateur radio astronomy SETI station commonly implemented is often derived
from a configuration which was designed by Ham Radio Operator,
Daniel Boyd-Fox, KF9ET.
Danial Boyd-Fox is also the author of the popular personal computer based
'sound-card' amateur SETI (FFT) analysis software,
- The Columbus Optical SETI (COSETI)
does not use radio, but uses electro-optical receivers to search for ET generated optical
signals. Dr. Stuart Kingsley, (member of the
a pioneer in the use of electronic optical
signal receivers for SETI (should not be confused with passive optical
astronomy telescopes) has long been a proponent for alternative search
Formal SETI search efforts have been extant since 1959 with no verified
signals having been received. All forms of SETI search need be continuously
promoted, regardless of period. SETI search may not yeild results for dozens
of decades, perhaps even centuries, owing to the great distances between
bodies in the Milky Way Galaxy.
With the exception of one very well publicized
"Wow!" deep-space signal received by the
Big Ear Radio Observatory, 1977,
Jerry Ehman, the "Big Ear" volunteer who in 1977 saw, one of the strongest
signals ever detected, scribbled 'Wow!' on data printout. It is rumored that
numerous unpublicized "Wow!s" have been subsequently detected, however, SETI
is affronted with the same intensity and scrutiny that Near Earth ET investigators
suffer, in this they share a commonality, and much is done in secret as result.
Beyond, the Wow!s, there has been no orthodox scientific data acquired attributable
It is reasonable to speculate that an engineering spacefaring capable ET
specie would recognize the limitations imposed in the use of EMF for
communications, as it is subluminal (restricted to speed of light), while the
distances between astronomical bodies in the Milky Way Galaxy are huge and
measured in light years (LY), the distance
which EMF waves travel in a year at the speed of light. An engineering ET
civilization might have solved that problem. Regardless, Earth's usage of
radio illustrates that a non-zero number, statistically is 'evidence'
that it may be possible that other technical ET civilizations, who have
developed similarly to that as Earth, might also be using radio or
light for great-distance-communication.
"UFOology", a definition, --historically has been the study of Human
generated sighting reports of suspected ExtraTerrestrial phenomena, it
is not the study of the phenomena. However, in recent years (and secretly)
scientific trained UFOlogists have been conducting scientific field
studies of suspected ET phenomena. Unlike SETI, and however poor the quality,
UFOlogy using anecdotal reports of sightings is data driven.
However, as other Near Earth ET scientists have privately told this author,
"there is a significant body of invariant anecdotal observational behavior data
contained within the massive collection of >50+ years of Human generated
'sighting' reports, which warrant further serious study."
UFOology may be described as a process of interviewing eyewitnesses,
documenting eyewitness observations, compiling reports into a meaningfull
database (if properly managed, most are not, often resulting in much useful
information being lost) and studying UFO reports. While many in 'orthodox'
scientific communities treat the compilation of existing anecdotal data
(fifty years, >10,000+ interview reports) as being 'worthless' and of little
value, serious Near Earth SETI researchers find that there are significant
and much useful data in these 'sighting' databases. Individually each report
is generally very low grade data, and from an acquisition stand point 'soft' while
collectively the anecdotal data as a whole constitute powerfull evidence that
statistically depicts Earth is being visited by suspected probes, machines,
and/or proxies of suspected extraterrestrial origin. There are UFOlogical
organizations who are working to effect changes in the quality of
data collection, listed below are a few these organizations:
With the advent of pilot, Kenneth Arnold's 1947 in-flight observation of
multiple discoid objects 'skipping' along through the sky like pebbles thrown
on a lake, marks what is considered the 'official' starting date of UFOology.
However, as noted by well known news-journalist Frank Edwards, unidentified
aerial phenomenon (UAP) has been reported by modern western civilization since
the 1800s and is documented in old newspaper archives.
The actual starting date is controversial. All through Man's history there
have been remarkable and often unexplained observations of aerial objects
which depict through engravings, written accounts and paintings which seem
to match descriptions of current observational phenomenon data of suspected
extraterrestrial machines and probes.
During World War II, there are the numerous reports which
were filed by fighter and bomber pilots from all of the combat
theatres. US Army Air Corp (now known as US Air Force)
fighter pilots described both daylight and night time
spherical objects which exhibited high performance 'flight' agility that seem
unmatched even in comparison with today's deployed high performance military
aircraft. These objects, were described as being from 50 mm (2 inches)
diameter upto 3m (9 feet) diameter. During daylight the objects appeared as
metallic balls, while at night they appeared as glowing 'fuzzy' balls of
light, typically orange-red when 'loitering' in an area, or when accelerating,
bright white. Pilots often were able to 'predict' object's intention to leave
the area by noting color shift toward the blue-white spectrum. The American
pilots referred to these objects as 'foo-fighters'.
It can be argued that UFOology is still a functioning body or 'community',
but in reality and by the very nature of the technical climate, UFOology has
come to the end of its usefulness. The head has died, but the body is unaware
of its emminent demise. In the early years, after the mid 1940s, UFOology
really had little opportunity to provide much more than sighting reports.
Once a process has started often its own inertia, carries itself forward
through the years. This was in part due to the nature of the state of the art
in technology of the period. Part of the reason there was such reliance on
photography as supportive evidence for sighting reports, and has persisted to
this day, was simply due to common public access to the chemical emulsion film
'still' camera. The camera was easy to use with little or no training, was rugged and
relatively inexpensive. It was the layman's first 'personal' data recording
instrument. While other more desirable instruments were unavailable to the
general public owing to cost, complexity of use and were not as rugged.
UFOology -- A Brief Chronology