Frequently Asked Questions


SETI is an acronym for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. It is a field of research that tries to detect evidence of technological civilizations that may exist elsewhere in the universe, particularly in our galaxy.  Since 1960, more than 100 SETI projects have been conducted by dozens of research groups in many countries. 

The SETI Institute is a non-profit corporation that serves as an institutional home for research and educational projects relating to the study of life in the universe.  The Institute has about 100 employees conducting about 50 projects spanning the field of Astrobiology and science education.  Only a few of the Institute’s projects are actually SETI.

The Allen Telescope Array (ATA) is an array of antennas which can be simultaneously used for both SETI and cutting-edge radio astronomy research.  The individual antennas are 6.1 meters across and so can see a relatively large area of the sky (2.5 degrees at 1420 MHz).  By combining the signals from each antenna in just the right way, we can synthesize a radio telescope with very fine resolution (5 arc-minutes at 1420 MHz).  Since this synthesis process is done in electronics, we can synthesize multiple independent telescopes with multiple copies of the electronics.  This gives us the ability to study many areas on the sky at once. For more information see beamformer. With the search capability of SonATA and with a significant fraction of time on the Allen Telescope Array we will conduct a reconnaissance to 100 thousand or even 1 million nearby stars.

The Allen Telescope Array is a joint effort by the SETI Institute and the University of California, Berkeley. It is located at the existing Hat Creek Observatory, run by UC Berkeley.  The site is in the Cascade Mountains just north of Mt. Lassen (California).  Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft) provided funding for the development and construction of the array with additional support from Nathan Myhrvold (former Chief Technology Officer for Microsoft).

You can find out a lot more about SETI and the SETI Institute at the SETI Institute FAQ.

setiQuest is effort by the SETI Institute to engage “Earthlings everywhere to become active participants in the ultimate search for cosmic company.”  There will be ways for people to watch ongoing observations, contribute to open source software development, develop and test new signal detection algorithms, and process data in the cloud.  Other data will be distributed through social networks for people to see and classify signals.

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seti@home is not a SETI Institute program. It is a UCB program. See http://www.seti.org/page.aspx?pid=748 for more details.

  • The Field of View (FoV) of the ATA array is set by the size of the 6m dishes and is 3.5 deg/(f in GHz) FWHM.
  • Below 7 GHz the FoV is larger than the full moon.  
  • The individual synthesized beams have a diameter ~= FoV *(6 m/300 m) where 300 m is approximately the size of the largest baseline in the ATA-42 array.