Jill Tarter Explains in 30 Seconds Why We’re Searching for Aliens

by Nancy Atkinson on June 5, 2014

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After nearly four decades of of listening for for signs of life in the cosmos, astronomer Jill Tarter is one of a handful of true experts on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). And since 1995 we’ve known for certain there are other planets out there; the goal now is to find one that’s habitable.

“Exoplanets are real,” Tarter said recently, talking about how the Kepler planet-hunting mission has changed the concept of SETI. “We are now observing stars where we KNOW there are planets. We’ve gone from having 20-30 potential targets to having thousands of targets. Kepler is telling us WHERE to look, and we are focusing there.”

But so far the search has come up empty. After so long with no luck, why continue? Tarter recently appeared on PBS’s “Secret Lives of Scientists”
and she gave them an answer in less than 30 seconds.

SETI's Jill Tarter. Credit: SETI

SETI’s Jill Tarter. Credit: SETI


Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Aqua4U June 6, 2014 at 1:39 PM

Any day now…

Jim Krug June 11, 2014 at 7:55 AM

There’s evidence to suggest that Tartar was the modern day equivalent of Donald Menzel, then Carl Sagan after him: A well-known scientific face present to debunk the existence of extraterrestrials to the public.

It seems contradictory that a SETI scientist of all people would be tabbed for the role, but think about it: How many times has a UFO sighting made national news, when Tartar was quickly called in for a quote to debunk it? Isn’t it odd that a scientist whose research was to FIND extraterrestrial life would automatically dismiss any claims that it’s already coming here?

If an extraterrestrial signal ever is discovered, SETI scientists are required to first report it to the US government, who then decides how to “disseminate” the information to the public. Good luck with that.

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