SETI Institute

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Not to be confused with the SITE Institute.
The SETI Institute logo

The SETI Institute is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to “explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe”. SETI stands for the "search for extraterrestrial intelligence". One program is the use of both radio and optical telescopes to search for deliberate signals from extraterrestrial intelligence. Other research, pursued within the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, includes astrophysics, planetary science, discovery, characterization, and formation of extrasolar planets, potentials for life on Mars and other bodies within the Solar System, and the habitability of the galaxy (including the study of extremophiles). The SETI Institute’s public outreach efforts include working with teachers and students in promoting science education and the teaching of evolution, working with NASA on exploration missions such as Kepler and SOFIA, and producing a weekly science program: Big Picture Science.

On 13 February 2015, scientists (including David Grinspoon, Seth Shostak, and David Brin) at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, discussed Active SETI and whether transmitting a message to possible intelligent extraterrestrials in the Cosmos was a good idea;[1][2] That same week, a statement was released, signed by many in the SETI community, that a "worldwide scientific, political and humanitarian discussion must occur before any message is sent".[3] On 28 March 2015, a related essay was written by Seth Shostak and published in the New York Times.[4]

Instruments used[edit]

Instruments used by SETI Institute scientists include the ground-based Allen Telescope Array, several ground-based optical telescopes such as the Shane telescope at Lick Observatory, the W.M. Keck telescopes & IRTF in Hawaii, the Very Large Telescopes in Chile. SETI researchers also use space telescope facilities, mostly the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Telescope. SETI scientists are also involved in space missions, the New Horizons mission toward Pluto, the Cassini mission, currently in orbit around Saturn, and the Mars Rovers Opportunity and Curiosity.


The SETI Institute was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) California nonprofit organization in 1984 by Thomas Pierson (CEO), and Dr. Jill Tarter. Financial and leadership support over the life of the SETI Institute has included Carl Sagan, Bernard Oliver, David Packard, William Hewlett, Gordon Moore, Paul Allen, Nathan Myhrvold, Lewis Platt, and Greg Papadopoulos. Two Nobel Laureates have been associated with the SETI Institute: Charles Townes, key inventor of the laser, and the late Baruch Blumberg, who discovered the Hepatitis B vaccine. Within the SETI Institute, Seth Shostak heads the SETI effort and is the host of Big Picture Science. Dr. David Morrison was the Director of the Carl Sagan Center, until August 2015, when Nathalie Cabrol was appointed as Director.[5] Edna DeVore is the Director of Education and Public Outreach. The SETI Institute is headquartered in Mountain View, California.

Funding supporters[edit]

Funding for SETI Institute programs comes from a variety of sources. Contrary to popular belief, and their Form 990, no government funds are allocated for its SETI searches[citation needed] – these are financed entirely by private contributions. Other astrobiology research at the SETI Institute may be funded by NASA, the National Science Foundation, or other grants and donations.[6] TeamSETI is the SETI Institute’s worldwide membership and support organization.

Carl Sagan Center[edit]

The SETI Institute employs over 50 researchers that study all aspects of the search for life, its origins, the environment in which life develops, and its ultimate fate. They include Laurance Doyle, Peter Jenniskens, Pascal Lee, Mark R. Showalter, and Franck Marchis.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Borenstein, Seth (of AP News) (13 February 2015). "Should We Call the Cosmos Seeking ET? Or Is That Risky?". New York Times. Retrieved 14 February 2015. 
  2. ^ Ghosh, Pallab (12 February 2015). "Scientist: 'Try to contact aliens'". BBC News. Retrieved 12 February 2015. 
  3. ^ Various (13 February 2015). "Statement - Regarding Messaging To Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) / Active Searches For Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Active SETI)". University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved 14 February 2015. 
  4. ^ Shostak, Seth (28 March 2015). "Should We Keep a Low Profile in Space?". New York Times. Retrieved 29 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Huynh, Miki (August 21, 2015). "Nathalie Cabrol to Lead Carl Sagan Center at SETI Institute". Astrobiology Life in the Universe. NASA. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  6. ^ Seti FAQ - see: So who funds the SETI search now?
  7. ^ Our Scientists (SETI Institute)

External links[edit]