From: Frank Warren <frank-warren.nul> Date: Sat, 28 Feb 2004 05:17:44 -0800 Fwd Date: Sat, 28 Feb 2004 11:18:53 -0500 Subject: Tarter Discusses Search For Aliens Source: The Daily Mississippian http://www.thedmonline.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2004/02/27/403f5188365a6 February 27, 2004 Tarter Discusses Search For Aliens by Erin M. Smith DM Campus News Editor Renowned scientist Jill Tarter spoke Tuesday at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, detailing her role in the search for extraterrestrial life. Tarter, director of the once-defunct Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence program, described the process in combing through the expanding universe, exploring the possibility of intelligent life. "When we ask ourselves are we the only one in the universe, we're asking, 'Are there any other intelligent...life in the universe that wonder if they are alone.'" The SETI program, which was featured in the 1997 movie "Contact," written by famed astronomer Carl Sagan, utilizes what Tarter called "primitive technology" to search for life. "We are the youngest technology out there," Tarter said, explaining that if she and her team of scientist make contact, the signal sent by the extraterrestrial life would be far more superior. However, to begin her search for the life, Tarter said, she and her scientists use radio telescopes to find signals emitted by light, starts and planetary objects. "The signal from the stars are very, very faint," Tarter said. "If you take a single cell phone (transmitter) and put the transmitter on the moon, it is the second strongest signal in the sky." With the SETI program, Tarter began searching for the faint signals in 1975 after she received her doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley, and when NASA terminated the program in 1993, Tarter had to find another resource to continue her love. "We are rising from the ashes of congressional termination," Tarter said. Tarter and her colleagues created the privately funded Project Phoenix, a project that uses the largest radio telescope in the world in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, with another in England to search for signals simultaneously. "We haven't yet detected a signal, but we really haven't done a lot of searching." With Project Phoenix, the telescopes can only comb through about one million stars, around 0.001 percent of the Milky Way Galaxy, Tarter said. In 2007, Tarter said scientists are planning to build the Allen Telespan Array, a group of more than 300 radio telescopes in California, to expand in their search for signals. "It will be 300 times faster than today in 2007." After Tarter and her team of scientists find a signal, she said they will try to deduce from the information the composition of the planet's atmosphere. If water, ozone and methane are present in the atmosphere, like Earth, scientist believe life also may be existent, Tarter said. The lecture was sponsored by the UM National Remote Sensing and Space Law Center, the Sarah Isom Center for Women and the Mississippi Space Grant Program. Although Tarter has yet to find any life, she still remains an eternal optimist. "I've worked hard in this project, and that's no reason at all to be (discouraged), because it's a huge universe out there."
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