Dr. Seth Shostak

Seth Shostak

Curriculum Vitae:

Contact Dr. Shostak directly:
Phone: 650-960-4530
Email: sshostak@seti.org

Seth claims to have developed an interest in extraterrestrial life at the tender age of ten, when he first picked up a book about the solar system. This innocent beginning eventually led to a degree in radio astronomy, and now, as Senior Astronomer, Seth is an enthusiastic participant in the Institute’s SETI observing programs. He also heads up the International Academy of Astronautics’ SETI Permanent Study Group.

In addition, Seth is keen on outreach activities: interesting the public – and especially young people – in science in general, and astrobiology in particular. He’s co-authored a college textbook on astrobiology, and continues to write trade books on SETI. In addition, he’s published nearly 300 popular articles on science, gives many dozens of talks annually, and is the host of the SETI Institute’s weekly science radio show, “Are We Alone?” And, as might be evident from this overly effusive bio, he is also editor of Explorer.

Adopt a Scientist Opportunity

You can be part of the production of the Institute’s radio show, as you join Seth Shostak and producer Molly Bentley in conceiving, writing, and editing a show about an exciting area of contemporary astrobiology research. If your temperament and vocal cords are up to it, you can also be on-air talent.

Or perhaps you’d like to take a trip to the Allen Telescope Array for two days of observing and shooting photos of the telescope. And if thinking big is your forte, it’s possible to join Seth and several dozen international SETI researchers at the International Astronautics Congress, being held this Fall in Hyderabad, India.


The Allen Telescope Array: Science Operations


Intellectual Merit The Allen Telescope Array (ATA) is a pioneering centimeter-wavelength radio telescope that will produce science that cannot be done with any other instrument. The ATA is the first radio telescope designed for commensal observing; it will simultaneously undertake the most comprehensive and sensitive SETI surveys ever done as well as the deepest and largest area continuum and spectroscopic surveys. The science of the ATA is enabled by a wide range of innovative technical developments. The astronomy decadal panel, Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millenium, endorsed SETI and recognized the ATA (then, the 1 Hectare Telescope) as an important stepping-stone o the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), its highest ranked "moderate project" in radio astronomy. Located in Hat Creek, CA, formerly the site of the BIMA Array, the array currently consists of 42 6.1-m diameter antennas with continuous frequency response from 0.5 to 11.2 GHz. Science operations commenced in mid-2007. Highlights include large-scale continuum mosaics, a high-quality single-pointing image of the entire Andromeda galaxy in HI, and a 500-hour search for fast radio transients. A call for external proposals netted 24 proposals requesting 1200 hours of observing time in a wide range of fields. The wide field of view of the ATA enables a survey capability that is comparable to large single dish telescopes and within a factor of a few of the current Very Large Array (VLA). The compact configuration of the ATA and the high density of antennas provides unprecedented snapshot imaging quality as well as a resolution that is intermediate between the most compact VLA configuration and that of the Iargest single dishes. The frequency range of the ATA permits sensitive observations at frequencies rarely studied. Finally, the use of two separate correlators at two independently-tunable frequencies and the simultaneous ability to synthesize multiple independently-located phased array beams at four independently-tunable frequencies gives the ATA the capability to conduct a wide range of science at once. Even with 42 elements, the ATA is a powerful radio survey telescope. Science goals include a 5 GHz continuum survey to match the 7.4-GHzN RAO VLA Sky Survey and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey within the first year of operation, and a survey of extragalactic hydrogen in the nearby universe to investigate galaxy evolution and intergalactic gas accretion. Transient and variable source surveys, pulsar science, spectroscopy of new molecular species in the galaxy, large-scale mapping of galactic magnetic filaments, and wide.field imaging of comets and other solar system objects are among the other key science objectives of the ATA. SETI surveys will target the inner Galactic plane for very luminous transmitters and hundreds of nearby stars, in some cases with sensitivities to terrestrial level signals. Broader Impact The Large-N, small-diameter (LNSD) concept that underlies the ATA design is the basis for the US and international designs for the SKA. Much of the technical development related to the ATA is important for the SKA and a range of new radio facilities employing the LNSD concept. Operation of the ATA will demonstrate the value of these in the best possible way - through science goals that cannot be otherwise achieved. The ATA has been and will continue to be the training ground for the next generation of centimeter-wave astronomers and instrumentalists. Eighteen graduate and undergraduate students have already been involved with the hardware and firmware design of the ATA. Additional students and postdocs have been involved in commissioning, calibration and observing. SETI science has a public appeal and a potential reward that go far beyond that of other fields of astronomy. The ATA and its SETI program will continue to draw worldwide attention to radio astronomy. The appeal of SETI has already drawn the private investment into the ATA that has enabled its development and construction, creating a new model for public and private collaboration in radio astronomy.

Detection of Complex, Electromagnetic Markers of Technology   


The proposed work seeks to extend the current capabilities of SETI searches for signals indicative of technology in remote locations. This is significant because current searches of this type simply look for carrier signals, the transmissions used to synch receivers with the coded information either on or adjacent to the carrier signal. The carrier signal detections would not necessarily contain any of the information transmitted. As such, a detection of a carrier signal only indicates the presence of technology, but little about the content of the transmission. The proposers seek to expand the SETI search toward the more complex transmissions that are superceding the use of carrier signals on Earth today.

Are We Alone Radio Program (host)