Robert H. Gray

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Robert H. Gray is an American data analyst, author, and astronomer.

Education and business career[edit]

Gray attended Shimer College, a Great Books school then located in western Illinois, where he received the Bachelor of Arts in 1970.[1][2] He went on to obtain a master's degree in urban planning and policy analysis from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1980, laying the groundwork for his subsequent career as a data analyst and programmer.[1]

In 1984, Gray founded the company Gray Data in Chicago, which provided data analysis research services[3] and also published reference cards for microcomputer software.[4]


Gray is best known for his work as a SETI participant.[5] Gray has monitored the area of space where the Wow! signal was discovered in 1977.[6] He began his quest to repeat this evidence for interstellar radio signals in 1982.[5] His searches for the Wow! signal include the possibility of signals that are intermittent, due to possible economic limitations of broadcasters or technological restrictions that may exist at the extraterrestrial broadcast site.[7] This has included extended single point observations that have lasted up to fourteen hours,[8] in order to account for the potential of a brief cyclical signal, rather than a constant, perpetual signal.[9]

Gray has reported searches for the signal on the Very Large Array (VLA),[10][11] becoming the first amateur astronomer to use it as well as the first individual to use the full VLA to search for extraterrestrial signals.[7] In 1987 and 1989 he led similar searches using the Harvard/Smithsonian META radio telescope at the Oak Ridge Observatory. Starting in 1998 he began searches at the Mount Pleasant Radio Observatory with co-researcher Simon Ellingsen.[12] His most recent assessment of the Wow! signal is that, if it was an interstellar signal, it may have come from something like a sweeping lighthouse beam, so instead of illuminating us with a constant signal, it sweeps over us infrequently but periodically.[5] In the 1980s he built a Small SETI Radio Telescope in his back yard, and used it to scan the sky for over ten years.[13][14]


In 2002 Gray and Professor Ellingsen wrote the article "A search for periodic emissions at the Wow locale" for The Astrophysical Journal, in which Gray reported upon searches for the Wow! signal.[15][16] In 2011 Gray published the book The Elusive Wow: Searching for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, summarizing what is known about the Wow! signal and writing about the search for extraterrestrial signals.[12][17]


  1. ^ a b "Robert Gray". Retrieved 2013-07-01. 
  2. ^ Shimer College Alum Directory. Waukegan, Illinois: Shimer College. 1997. p. 42. 
  3. ^ Decennial Census Data for Transportation Planning: Case Studies and Strategies for 2000 : Proceedings of a Conference, Irvine, California, April 28-May 1, 1996, Volume 1. Transportation Research Board. 1997. 
  4. ^ National Space Institute (1986). "Robert Gray". Space World. p. 20. 
  5. ^ a b c "The Wow! signal: Alien hunter claims best clue yet to existence of E.T. came from an interstellar lighthouse". Daily Mail. February 17, 2012. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  6. ^ Luke S. Walker (April 16, 2008). "WOW Signal Still Eludes". WTNR Internet Radio. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Ross Andersen (February 16, 2012). "The 'Wow!' Signal: One Man's Search for SETI's Most Tantalizing Trace of Alien Life". The Atlantic. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  8. ^ Seth Shostak (October 22, 2003). "The Mysteries of the Wow Wave". Astrobiology Magazine. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  9. ^ Paul Scott (February 24, 2012). "35 Years Later, the ‘Wow!’ Signal Still Tantalizes". Universe Today. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  10. ^ Alan M. MacRobert. "SETI Searches Today". Sky & Telescope Magazine. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  11. ^ Thomas R. McDonough (1987). The search for extraterrestrial intelligence: listening for life in the cosmos. John Wiley. p. 224. 
  12. ^ a b Amir Alexander (April 7, 2010). "The Wow! signal". Cosmos Magazine. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  13. ^ Yervant Terzian (1997). Carl Sagan's Universe. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  14. ^ Michael D. Papagiannis (1985). "The search for extraterrestrial life--recent developments: proceedings of the 112th symposium of the International Astronomical Union held at Boston University, Boston, Mass., USA". International Astronomical Union. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  15. ^ Paul Jay (August 15, 2007). "A Signal from Above". CBC News. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  16. ^ Gray, Robert H.; Ellingsen, Simon (2002-10-20). "A Search for Periodic Emissions at the Wow Locale". The Astrophysical Journal 578: 967–971. Bibcode:2002ApJ...578..967G. doi:10.1086/342646. 
  17. ^ "The Elusive WOW: Searching for Extraterrestrial Intelligence". Publishers Weekly. October 24, 2011. Retrieved February 25, 2013.