Jill Tarter Video: From Searching For Aliens To Helping Hollywood Stars, And Back Again

Imagine you’re a researcher at a cocktail party. You meet Carl Sagan (Carl Sagan!) and he hands you a novel. And it turns out that you are the inspiration for the major character in that book.

What was SETI researcher Jill Tarter’s reaction when this actually happened and she heard about Ellie, the protagonist in Contact?

“I said, ‘Look. Here’s the deal. As long as she doesn’t eat ice cream cones for lunch, nobody’s going to think it’s me.’ That was the thing that was sort of my most peculiar habit of the time,” Tarter recalls in this new video for PBS.

If you can think of all the media attention that surrounded the reboot of Cosmos, imagine that it’s 1997 and Contact has just been made into a movie. Tarter became a celebrity overnight, and describes the impact on her life. But she also explains why searching for life beyond Earth has relevance.

Tarter’s video is just one of several featured in the show “”The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers.” To get the full story on Tarter’s links to Contact, check out this Universe Today story from 2012 where she reflected on the 15th anniversary of the movie.

Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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