Seth Shostak

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G. Seth Shostak
Seth Shostak.jpg
Shostak in 2017 giving a talk at NASA's Langley Research Center
Born (1943-07-20) July 20, 1943 (age 79)
Alma materPrinceton (BA)
California Institute of Technology (PhD)
Known forSETI research
AwardsKlumpke-Roberts Award (2004)
Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization (2015)
Scientific career
FieldsPhysics, astronomy, science communication

Seth Shostak (born July 20, 1943) is an American astronomer and author, and is currently the senior astronomer for the SETI Institute.[1][2][3]

Shostak hosts SETI's weekly radio show/podcast Big Picture Science, has played himself numerous times in TV and internet film dramas, and has acted in several science fiction films.

Early life and education[edit]

Seth Shostak was born in a Jewish family in Arlington, Virginia, the son of Arthur and Bertha Shostak (née Gortenburg); his father was an electrical engineer.[4][5] He earned his BS in physics from Princeton University and a PhD in astrophysics from the California Institute of Technology.[6]

Professional work[edit]

Shostak used radio telescopes in the US and the Netherlands, searching for clues to the ultimate fate of the universe by analyzing galaxy motion. In 1999, he produced twelve 30-minute lectures on audio-tape and video titled "The Search for Intelligent Life in Space" for The Teaching Company. An updated overview about the search for extraterrestrial life was presented in 2019.[7]

SETI Institute[edit]

Since 2001, he has been the senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to "explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe". SETI Institute, located in Mountain View, California, 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.

He was the chair of the International Academy of Astronautics SETI Permanent Committee from 2003-2012.[8]

Public outreach[edit]

Shostak in 2011

Shostak is an active participant in the Institute's observation programs and has been hosting SETI's weekly radio show Big Picture Science[9] since 2002. Each week, Shostak interviews guests about the latest scientific research on a variety of topics: cosmology, physics, genetics, paleontology, evolutionary biology and astrobiology. Big Picture Science is distributed on the Public Radio Satellite System and the Public Radio Exchange and is available for download at the SETI Institute's website and through podcasts.

Shostak also hosts the monthly "Skeptic Check" episodes of Big Picture Science, focused on debunking pseudoscience, UFOs and practices such as astrology and dowsing.[10]

He has published four books, nearly 300 popular articles on astronomy, technology, film and television and gives frequent talks to both young and adult audiences.[11]


Year Title Role Notes
2008 The Day the Earth Stood Still advisor: astrobiology (crew) A remake of the 1951 classic sci-fi film about an alien visitor and his giant robot counterpart who visit Earth.
2007 Star Trek: Of Gods and Men Enterprise Communications Officer (actor) Video

Television / web series[edit]

Year Title As Notes
2017 How the Universe Works Himself as Astronomer
Episode: "Strangest Alien Worlds"
2013 Alien Encounters (TV Mini-Series) Himself as Senior Astronomer
Episode:"The Offspring"
Episode:"The Invasion"
2012-2013 Ancient Aliens (TV Series Documentary) Himself as Senior Astronomer
Episode: "Destination Orion"
Episode:"Aliens and Cover-Ups"
Episode:"The Time Travelers"
Episode:"The NASA Connection"
2012 Science Club (TV Series) Himself - SETI Institute
2008-2012 Horizon (TV Series Documentary) Himself - SETI Institute
Episode:"The Transit of Venus: A Horizon Special"
Episode:"Are We Alone in the Universe?"
2012 Prophets of Science Fiction (TV Series Documentary) Himself Episode:"George Lucas"
2011 Curiosity (TV series documentaries) Himself Episode: Alien Invasion Are We Ready"
2010 Ideas That Changed the World[12] (TV Series Documentary) Himself Episode:"Communication"
2010 Lost Tapes (TV Series) Himself - Senior Astronomer, SETI Institute
2010 Bad Universe (TV Series Documentary) Himself Episode:"Alien Attack!"
2010 Naked Science (TV Series Documentary) Himself as Senior Astronomer Episode: "Hunt for Aliens"
Episode:"Alien Contact(2004)"
2009 The Colbert Report (TV Series) Himself (Guest) - SETI Institute
Episode:"Episode #5.70"
2007 UFO Files (TV Series Documentary) Himself - SETI Institute
Episode:"Alien Hunters"
Episode (2005):"UFO Hunters"
Episode (2005):"The Day After Roswell"
2007 The Universe (TV Series Documentary) Himself as Senior Astronomer
Episode:"Search for E.T."
2007 Is It Real? (TV Series Documentary) Himself as Astronomer
Episode: "Life on Mars"
2005 Extraterrestrial (TV Movie Documentary) Himself - SETI Institute
"SETI Institute"
2005 How William Shatner Changed the World (TV Movie Documentary) Himself - SETI Institute
"SETI Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence"
1998 Life Beyond Earth[13] (TV Movie Documentary) Science Advisor (crew) Written by Timothy Ferris for Public Broadcasting Service


Shostak was the 2004 winner of the Klumpke-Roberts Award of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy.[14]

In January 2010 he was elected as a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI),[15] and in October 2019 was a featured speaker at the organization's annual conference, CSICon.[16]

He has been an observer for Project Phoenix (SETI) as well as an active participant in various international forums for SETI research. He served as chair of the International Academy of Astronautics SETI Permanent Study Group from 2002 to 2012.[17]

Shostak has been nominated by the SETI Institute to be one of the USA Science and Engineering Festival's Nifty Fifty Speakers, who will speak about his work and career to middle and high school students in October 2010.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Seth became interested in electronics and amateur radio as a young student.[18]

Shostak's hobbies include film making, railroading, and computer animation. While working at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, he founded DIGIMA, a computer animation company.[14] He is a brother of Robert Shostak, developer of the Paradox relational database.[citation needed]

In the spring of 1988 Seth left Groningen to help his brother, who was then working on image database software in Silicon Valley.[19]

According to his C.V., Shostak has a considerable body of creative writing, mostly for corporate clients. He was also "idea man" behind a plan to build a large space and technology theme park in The Netherlands and also the Air and Space Exhibit at the California Science Center, where he also serves on the board.[20]


  • Life in the Universe, Jeffrey O. Bennett, Bruce Jakosky and Seth Shostak, 1980, ISBN 0-385-28458-6.
  • Sharing the Universe: Perspectives on Extraterrestrial Life, Seth Shostak, foreword by Frank Drake 1998, ISBN 0-9653774-3-1.
  • Cosmic Company: The Search for Life in the Universe, Seth Shostak, Alex Barnett, 2003, ISBN 0-521-82233-5.
  • Confessions of an Alien Hunter: A Scientist's Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Seth Shostak, foreword by Frank Drake 2009, ISBN 1-4262-0392-6.[21]


  1. ^ Shostak, Seth (21 May 2014). "Using Radio in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence" (PDF). US Congress. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-09-24. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  2. ^ Kleineidam, Alina (21 May 2014). "Astronomers tell Congress they're almost certain ET exists". ABC News. Archived from the original on 22 May 2014. Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  3. ^ "Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast 582 2016-09-03". Archived from the original on 2006-04-17. Retrieved 2016-09-05.
  4. ^ "1950 United States Federal Census". Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  5. ^ a b "Nifty Fifty". Archived from the original on 29 April 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  6. ^ "Shostak, Seth". SETI Institute. Archived from the original on 26 January 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  7. ^ Shostak, Seth (4 October 2019). "We may be closing in on the discovery of alien life. Are we prepared? - New robotic craft bound for Mars should give us our best shot at finding life on the Red Planet". NBC News. Archived from the original on 5 October 2019. Retrieved 5 October 2019.
  8. ^ "IAA SETI Permanent Committee: Minutes". Archived from the original on 2018-07-22. Retrieved 2016-10-26.
  9. ^ Seth, Shostak. "Big Picture Science". SETI Institute. Archived from the original on 30 January 2014. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  10. ^ "Big Picture Science". About...Big Picture Science. Archived from the original on 1 October 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  11. ^ Shostak, Seth. "Seth Shostak: ET is (probably) out there -- get ready". Archived from the original on 2014-01-23. Retrieved 2014-01-27.
  12. ^ Ideas That Changed the World at IMDb
  13. ^ Life Beyond Earth at IMDb
  14. ^ a b "Seth Shostak". Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: GALE Literature Resource Center. 2010.
  15. ^ "Sixteen Notable Figures in Science and Skepticism Elected CSI Fellows". 12 January 2010. Archived from the original on 2011-08-05. Retrieved 2011-08-07.
  16. ^ "CSICon 2019: Speakers". CFI. Archived from the original on 25 October 2019. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  17. ^ "IAA SETI Permanent Committee". The SETI League. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
  18. ^ "ET is (Probably) Out There — Get Ready". TED. 2 June 2012.
  19. ^ "Nieuwsblad van het Noorden" (in Dutch). March 25, 1988. Retrieved 2013-03-22.
  20. ^ Shostak, Seth. "Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2013-06-03. Retrieved 2014-01-27.
  21. ^ Kaufman, Marc (15 March 2009). "Book Review: Confessions of an Alien Hunter by Seth Shostak". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 13 October 2017. Retrieved 3 December 2017.

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