Jill Tarter

SETI Institute

Jill Tarter

Jill Tarter, "Employee One" at SETI, gives a brief history of the exciting advances of SETI and introduces setiQuest. At OSCON, she called for aid from the open source community to volunteer for SETI's new initiative. 

SetiQuest began with the help of a 2009 TEDPrize Wish grant. Signals are collected by the new ATA-42 optical telescopes and radiotelescopes sponsored by Intel, Dell, and Google; a source code repository sponsored by Amazon, and a developer community sponsored by Cloudant, Infosys GitHub, Palamida, Danese Cooper, and Wikipedia.

"You left your computers on for us," Tarter says of SETI's distributed computing initiative in the '90's, SETI@home. "You paid for electrons," now SETI "is asking for your thinkons," Tarter says.

Since 1959, SETI has been searching for technosignatures of other life in the universe. Since that time, the signals have been refined by 15 orders of magnitude. "We all have a common origin in stardust," Tarter says. Intelligent life leaves its imprint in this dust, as well. The key to finding it, Tarter says, is "sticking around long enough."

Jill Tarter holds the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI Research and is Director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute. She served as Project Scientist for NASA’s SETI program, the High Resolution Microwave Survey, and numerous observational programs at radio observatories worldwide. Since the termination of funding for NASA’s SETI program in 1993, she has served in a leadership role to secure private funding to continue the exploratory science.

She serves on the management board for the Allen Telescope Array, which will simultaneously survey the radio universe for known and unexpected sources of astrophysical emissions, and speed up the search for radio emissions from other distant technologies by orders of magnitude.

Tarter has been the Principal Investigator for two science curriculum development projects, the Life in the Universe series, and Voyages Through Time. Tarter is a frequent speaker for science teacher meetings and at museums and science centers. Many people are now familiar with her work as portrayed by Jodie Foster in the movie Contact. Tarter received her Bachelor of Engineering Physics Degree with Distinction from Cornell University and her Master’s Degree and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from UC-Berkeley.


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