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SETI Has A New Plan To Hunt For Alien Life, But They Need Your Help


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer

SETI Institute

The SETI Institute wants to begin a new hunt for alien life, one that will look for laser emissions from alien civilizations, and they need your help.

Called Laser SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), the idea is to build a new prototype telescope that can hunt for flashes of laser light from another race.


An Indiegogo campaign is currently being run by the SETI Institute, hoping to raise at least $100,000, This would be enough to build two of the prototype telescopes, and begin a new hunt for alien life.

In a blog post, SETI proposes that an alien society may use short laser flashes to try and attract our attention, having already worked out that our planet might be habitable. It’s a signal that would be obvious it’s coming from another intelligent species.

“Such pinprick light flashes could be routinely dotting the heavens today, but we wouldn’t know,” SETI writes. “Most telescopes are insensitive to short light pulses, and in any case are focused on tiny patches of the sky. We would no more be aware of such signals than Columbus was of Jupiter’s moons, despite the fact that they were in plain sight.”

Sure, it sounds a bit far-fetched, but venturing into the unknown is what SETI is all about. After all, we still don’t know if life can or does exist anywhere else. We won’t know unless we look, though.


The SETI Institute wants to build toaster-sized prototype detectors that can detect flashes of laser light from distant worlds. With enough of them, we could monitor the whole sky, all the time, so that we wouldn’t miss any such signals.

“With six or ten such clusters around the world, you could monitor the night sky continously,” Seth Shostak, the Director of the SETI Institute, told IFLScience. “With six or ten such clusters around the world, you could monitor the night sky continuously. You'd have to build about 100 to 120 of these instruments, but they're not very expensive [tens of thousands of dollars].”

At the time of writing, they’ve raised about $25,000, although it’s a flexible goal so they don’t need to raise the full amount to receive full funding. There are a variety of perks available depending on how much you’re willing to donate, including the chance to have lunch with the SETI team if you part with $5,000.

SETI has infamously always been short of funding. Being a private non-profit organization, it has relied on funding from philanthropists and the public over the years. Recently, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner used $100 million of his own money to fund a new hunt for life. But now, with your help, the SETI Institute can look for alien life in an entirely new way.


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