is probably the most important quest of our time, and it amazes
me that governments and corporations are not supporting it sufficiently.
Arthur C. Clarke, 2006
In the early
1960s, Frank Drake, a young astronomer with the
National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in
Green Bank, West Virginia, developed what is now known
as the Drake Equation in an
effort to determine how many intelligent, communicative civilizations
our galaxy could harbor. And for forty
years, the Search for Extraterrestrial
Intelligence or SETI
has combed the skies in search of signals from star systems within
100-meter National Radio Astronomy Observatory used by SETI at
Green Bank, West Virginia, is the world's largest fully steerable
Drake Equation is written as N = R* ·
fp · ne · fl · fi · fc · L where:
||is the number of
civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy
whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable;
||is the rate of formation
of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life;
||is the fraction
of those stars with planetary systems;
||is the number of
planets per solar system with an environment suitable for life;
||is the fraction
of suitable planets on which life actually appears;
||is the fraction
of life-bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges;
||is the fraction
of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable
signs of their existence into space; and,
||is the length of
time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.
Equation courtesy of the SETI Institute.
Within the limits of our existing
technology, any practical search for distant intelligent life
must necessarily be a search for some manifestation of a distant
technology. In each of its last four decadal reviews, the
National Research Council has emphasized the relevance
and importance of searching for evidence of the electromagnetic
signature of distant civilizations.
Besides illuminating the factors
involved in such a search, the Drake
Equation is a simple, effective tool for stimulating
intellectual curiosity about the universe around us, for helping
us to understand that life as we know it is the end product of
a natural, cosmic evolution, and for making us realize how much
we are a part of that universe. A key goal of the
SETI Institute is to further high quality research that
will yield additional information related to any of the factors
of this fascinating equation.
alien janitor is copyright © Brian Zaikowski. All Rights
was never a time when I didn't just absolutely assume that the
stars in the sky were somebody else's suns." -
Jill Tarter, Director: SETI Institute - Project Phoenix
While at the
University of California, Berkeley, in the
1970s, Jill Tarter was recruited to work on a
SETI project there because she was the only one who could
program an obsolete computer. She has been with the
SETI program ever since.
1993, in a perfunctory if not malicious act of
Congress, the SETI
program was axed. Undaunted
by the setback, Jill Tarter
acquired private funding and resurrected
SETI from the ashes of its old self as
Project Phoenix. Currently,
Project Phoenix listens to
1,000 sun like stars within
200 light years of Earth, for intelligent radio signals.
Arroway, the character portrayed by
Jodi Foster in the movie Contact,
which was based on Carl Sagan's
novel by the same name, was modelled after his friend
Jill Tarter. In fact,
Jill Tarter makes a cameo appearance in the film, during
the scene where Ellie is questioned
by committee, and can be seen sitting behind
Jodi Foster against the back wall at
stage right for all to see. Ha.
According to the
Drake Equation, there are more intelligent aliens out
there in our own galaxy capable of communicating with us than
we ever imagined. Perhaps some of them have been mistaken by
us as Angels, as I describe
in Hephzibah of Heaven.
is a scientific experiment that uses
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