Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Background photo: central region of the Galaxy by Yuri Beletsky, Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory

Purpose

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) addresses one of the most important questions of our time: Are we alone in the universe?

Prospects for life elsewhere

Based on data from the NASA Kepler telescope, we know that there are between 300 million and 10 billion habitable worlds in our galaxy.

Prospects for establishing contact

Radio telescopes can detect signals emitted thousands of light years away, enabling contact from a large fraction of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Prospects for humanity

Imagine what we could learn if we received signals from an advanced civilization. Imagine the benefits to science, engineering, medicine, the arts, and philosophy.

Inspiration

Frank Drake conducted the first SETI search and was my thesis advisor's thesis advisor. Jill Tarter devoted her career to SETI and has provided guidance about our search. Carl Sagan vigorously promoted SETI and his position was endorsed by many other eminent scientists.

Publications

Results of our searches have been published in the Astronomical Journal:Kepler field (2018), TRAPPIST-1 and other planetary systems (2019), and solar-type stars near the plane of the Galaxy (2020). You may also read our science white paper submitted to the Astro 2020 decadal survey.

Graduate and undergraduate SETI course at UCLA

Students can learn valuable workplace skills (telecommunications, computer science, signal processing, statistics) in the context of SETI. Since 2016, I have been teaching the first-ever graduate and undergraduate SETI course in which students obtain and analyze data from large radio telescopes. Watch a two-minute video about the course or read the syllabus or course evaluations.

Photo of Spring 2016 UCLA SETI class
Spring 2016 UCLA SETI class with Larry Lesyna
Photo of Spring 2017 UCLA SETI class
Spring 2017 UCLA SETI class with Michael Thacher
Photo of Spring 2018 UCLA SETI class
Spring 2018 UCLA SETI class
Photo of Spring 2019 UCLA SETI class
Spring 2019 UCLA SETI class
Photo of Spring 2020 UCLA SETI class
Spring 2020 UCLA SETI class

How you can help

With your help, we can

  • Enable the purchase of equipment and telescope time to collect data
  • Improve the training of the next generation of scientists and engineers
  • Help bring the excitement of SETI to the UCLA classroom and the general public

SETI experienced a nearly 30-year federal funding drought between 1993 and 2020. We have secured a three-year grant from NASA to fund our search, but the grant does not cover equipment or telescope costs. Please consider partnering with us by clicking the "donate" button at the bottom. To protect against federal funding variations, we also seek to endow a graduate student or postdoctoral fellowship.

Donor Recognition

Our SETI teaching and research would not be possible without the generous gifts of our donors. We are extremely grateful for their support!

  • Fritz Demopoulos made a generous gift in 2020 that sustains and propels our search to a new level.
  • Janet Marott kick-started the course and enabled the purchase of a 100 TB storage server in 2016.
  • Michael W. Thacher and Rhonda L. Rundle enabled the purchase of telescope time in 2017-2019 and a 200 TB storage server in 2019.
  • Larry Lesyna enabled the 2016-2020 course offerings with gifts each year, including a gift to enable our 2021 observations.
  • Arnie Boyarsky enabled the purchase of telescope time for the Spring 2017 course offering.
  • Gary and Nancy Beverage enabled the purchase of telescope time for the Spring 2018 course offering.
  • David Saltzberg has contributed to our SETI initiative with gifts every year in 2016-2020.
  • 32 donors contributed generously to our 2019 crowdfunding campaign.

Get involved

Subscribe to our newsletter, read past issues, or get in touch. Watch a two-minute video about the UCLA SETI course or a 30-minute talk about the search for life in the universe. If you wish to contribute, you can make a tax-deductible donation on the secure UCLA giving site.