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NASA recruits its SETI team.

NASA recruits its SETI team

On Jan. 15, NASA named nine scientists to work on its Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Microwave Observing Project. Using radiotelescopes, this team will listen for attempts to communicate with Earth by life elsewhere in the galaxy (SN: 5/13/89, p.296). Jill C. Tarter of NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., will direct the team, which plans to begin listening for the extraterrestrial broadcasts on Oct. 12, 1992, the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' landing in the Americas.

SETI researchers at Ames will focus their attention on microwave emissions from about 1,000 selected stellar sources -- stars similar to the sun and within 80 light-years of Earth. At NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., a second SETI team will manage a broader survey of the whole sky "to detect signals from directions that might be overlooked if the search were limited to nearby [sun-like] stars."

Some project scientists will labor before the listening begins:

* Peter B. Boyce in Washington, D.C., executive officer of the American Astronomical Society, will try to identify stars within about 13 light-years that may have been in the beams of Earthbased radars used to study lunar and planetary surfaces -- in case such signals motivated any life forms on planets near such stars to attempt a reply.

* Several SETI team members, including Michael M. Davis, director of the Arecibo Radio Observatory in Puerto Rico, will work on configuring the project's radio receivers to automatically weed out spurious signals from Earth or nearby, including those from artificial satellites.

* Kenneth C. Turner, program director for extragalactic astronomy at the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C., hopes to tailor the project's computer software to ignore Earth-based signals that reflect back from the moon or other bodies in the solar system.

* David W. Latham of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., will reevaluate the existing list of stars selected for detailed observations using a database of more modern observations.
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Title Annotation:Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Microwave Observing Project
Publication:Science News
Date:Feb 2, 1991
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