Search the Skies with Jill Tarter
Astronomer Dr. Jill Tarter is Director of the Institute's Center for SETI Research and also holder of the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI. She is one of the few researchers to have devoted her career to hunting for signs of sentient beings elsewhere, and there are few aspects of this field that have not been affected by her work.
Dr. Tarter was the lead for Project Phoenix, a decade-long SETI scrutiny of about 750 nearby star systems, using telescopes in Australia, West Virginia and Puerto Rico. While no clearly extraterrestrial signal was found, this was the most comprehensive targeted search for artificially generated cosmic signals ever undertaken. Now Jill heads up the Institute's efforts to build and operate the Allen Telescope Array (ATA), a massive new instrument that will eventually comprise 350 antennas, each 6 meters in diameter. This telescope will be able to enormously increase the speed, and the spectral search range, of the Institute's hunt for signals.
"One of the good things about the ATA is that there are likely to be may stars that are visible at any one time within its large field of view, so with multiple beam formers, and multiple detectors, we can explore multiple stars simultaneously, at different frequencies if we want. Furthermore, we can do this while our astronomy colleagues are mapping the sky for hydrogen gas, or large biogenic molecules, or other phenomena of scientific interest to them. This multiplexing potential is a new and exciting innovation that will speed up the SETI searching in the next decades."
Indeed, being as much of an icon of SETI as Jill is, perhaps it is not surprising that the Jodie Foster character in the movie "Contact" is largely based on this real-life researcher.
Experience the ATA Firsthand by Adopting Jill Tarter
Be a part of history! Join Jill Tarter as the Allen Telescope Array begins operations. The ATA-42 - the first 42 elements of the full antenna array - will do in five minutes what used to take 10 days. When the ATA-350 is complete, it will survey tens of thousands of star systems and eventually, millions!
You can participate in an amazing opportunity! Be the guest of Jill and her husband, Jack Welch, a member of the SETI Institute Board of Trustees, and Watson and Marilyn Alberts Chair for SETI at UC Berkeley, for a dinner at their Berkeley home.
Later that evening, Jill and Jack will fly you and three guests to Hat Creek Radio Observatory, north of Mount Lassen, in their pressurized Cessna 210 airplane. Hat Creek is the home of the ATA where SETI observations, as well as radio astronomical surveys, are conducted.
Upon your arrival, Jill and Jack will present a tutorial on how to build a very large telescope inexpensively from a large number of small dishes. You will also be treated to a preview of the expected scientific return from this innovative new instrument. You will dine again with Jill and Jack and enjoy an overnight stay in the Hat Creek House on the observatory site. The next day, you'll be able to hike and tour the local area before your return flight. This expedition will create life-long memories that you will share with friends and family for years to come - and you can boast you were among the first to experience the ATA-42 and all that it promises.