Dr. Peter Backus

Peter BackusAstronomer Peter Backus joined the newly formed SETI Institute in 1985 to work as a radio astronomer and software engineer. With his previous experience studying pulsars, he was well qualified to embrace the software development, and real-time data acquisition and signal processing required for SETI. A few years later, he became a Co-Principal Investigator on a cooperative agreement with NASA, leading research and development of both software and hardware for the NASA SETI Program.

Alas, the NASA SETI program was cancelled by congressional action in 1993, but Peter’s expertise continued to make major contributions to the now-privatized search. He held several management roles in Project Phoenix, a major survey of star systems out to about 250 light-years distance. Peter was always at the observatory, whether at Parkes, in Australia, in Green Bank, West Virginia, or at the impressive Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico. He is now planning SETI observations for the Allen Telescope Array, and as part of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, he is developing a list of about one million “target” stars for SETI to be observed with this new instrument. If the extraterrestrials are found, Peter will have put their world on our list.