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Optical SETI Observatories in the New Millennium: A Review


Stuart A. Kingsley




The Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence is now 40 years old.  However, it was only during the closing years of the 20th Century, after a 25-year hiatus, that the optical search has regained respectability in the SETI community at large.  The quarter-of-a-century delay in American Optical SETI research was due to a historical accident and not for the lack of any enabling technology.  This review paper describes aspects of past, present and future Optical SETI programs.  Emphasis is placed on detecting fast, pulsed attention-getting laser beacon signals rather than monochromatic, continuous wave beacons.  Some examples of commercial detection equipment that may be employed for either type of OSETI are given.

It is expected that in time, some of the great telescopes of the world will be employed in this optical search for ETI signals. This may take the form of either dedicated observations or a type of Optical SERENDIP program, as had been done with Microwave SETI.  There will also be large observatories built dedicated only to the optical search.  Just as the microwave SETI@Home project has proved very popular with the public, the time has come for its optical equivalent.  This paper also speculates on the eventual need to move Optical SETI observatories into space with high altitude balloons and space-based telescopes.  It is expected that by the end of the first decade of the Third Millennium, the electromagnetic search for extraterrestrial intelligence on planet Earth will be dominated by SETI of the optical kind.


Optical, lasers, SETI, ETI, extraterrestrial, intelligence, observatories, space-based, review, millennium.


Principal Author Biography

Stuart A. Kingsley is the Director of The Columbus Optical SETI Observatory, Webmaster for the observatory's Web site, the chairman for SPIE's first three conferences on Optical SETI, and is VP of Engineering for SRICO, Inc.  He was educated in England and has resided in the United States since 1981.  Stuart has a B.Sc. Honors in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from The City University, London, and a Ph.D. in Electronic and Electrical, Engineering from University College London.  He was a principal research scientist and then a senior research scientist at Battelle Columbus Laboratories from 1981 to 1987.  From 1987 to 1990 Stuart was a photonics consultant.  Since 1990, he has been the VP of Engineering for SRICO, Inc., a small photonics company specializing in integrated optical modulators based on Mach-Zehnder interferometers.  The devices are used for 40 GHz+ optical intensity modulators, electric-field, voltage and current sensing, physiological measurement of ECG and EEG signals, ultra-fast optical switches, and fiber optic Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM).

In 1984, Stuart shared the prestigious British Rank Prize for Optoelectronics with his thesis advisor, Professor, Sir David Davies.  This award was given for their pioneering work in fiber optic sensing.  In 1998, after an eight year self-funded effort, his Optical SETI crusade led to the re-awakening of the scientific community's interest in the optical approach.  In 2000, The SETI League recognized this watershed event by presenting Stuart with their prestigious Bruno Award

Principal Author Affiliation

Director, The Columbus Optical SETI Observatory
545 Northview Drive,
Columbus, Ohio 43209-1051
Tel: (614) 258-7402
Fax: (707) 313-2546
Email: contact info
URL: www.coseti.org



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