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Optical SETI Pioneer Receives Bruno Award

 

 small logo SETI League Press Release


Optical SETI Pioneer Receives Bruno Award
For more information contact: Dr. H. Paul Shuch, Executive Director
(201) 641-1770, or email info@setileague.org


SAK thumbnail LITTLE FERRY, NJ, 26 March, 2000 -- The SETI League, Inc., leaders in the privatized Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, has awarded its highest honor to a leading proponent of Optical SETI (OSETI).  Photonics engineer Dr. Stuart Kingsley, 51, director of the Columbus Optical SETI Observatory, today received the coveted Giordano Bruno Memorial Award for his pioneering efforts in the search for laser signals from space.

For forty years, the world's SETI programs have been dominated by microwave technology, while OSETI proponents have argued that laser communication is at least as likely a mechanism as radio for establishing interstellar contact.  Dr. Kingsley's has been a voice in the wilderness for at least the past ten years, his optical observatory among the first to search for laser communications from space.  The scientific establishment is only now beginning to embrace OSETI, due in large part to Kingsley's research, publications and conference presentations.

Since 1990 Stuart Kingsley has been conducting what has become the world's longest-running optical SETI program, from an observatory dome behind his home in Columbus, OH.  His modest 25 cm diameter reflector telescope searches the 550 nm spectrum for pulsed lasers emanating from nearby stars.  While most SETI scientists concentrated on the more conventional microwave spectrum, Dr. Kingsley's optical search has received support from such visionaries as Nobel laureate Dr. Charles Townes and novelist Sir Arthur C. Clarke.

As vindication of Kingsley's vision, the past five years have seen the launch of half a dozen ambitious OSETI projects at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astronomical Observatory; the University of California, Berkeley; the Lick observatory in California; on the Keck telescope in Hawaii; at Perth and Sydney, Australia; and in the Czech Republic.  Dr. Kingsley now chairs the SETI League's Optical SETI Committee, through which he encourages other experimenters to embrace OSETI.

SETI scientists seek to determine through microwave and optical measurements whether humankind is alone in the universe.  Since Congress terminated NASA's SETI funding in 1993, The SETI League and other scientific groups have been attempting to privatize the research.  Experimenters interested in participating in the search for intelligent alien life, or citizens wishing to help support it, should email to join@setileague.org, check the SETI League Web site at http://www.setileague.org/, send a fax to 1 (201) 641-1771, or contact The SETI League, Inc. membership hotline at 1 (800) TAU-SETI.  Be sure to provide us with a postal address to which we will mail further information.  The SETI League, Inc. is a membership-supported, non-profit [501(c)(3)], educational and scientific corporation dedicated to the electromagnetic Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.

Dr. Kingsley's curriculum vita may be found on the web, at www.setileague.org/admin/kingsley.htm.

 

Dr. Paul Shuch on his cell phone At the Annual General Meeting of The SETI League on March 26, 2000, Dr. Paul Shuch, Executive Director, announces that their prestigious Bruno Award has been given to Dr. Stuart Kingsley.  Unfortunately, I could not be there to receive the award in person. Dr. Paul Shuch holding the 2000 Bruno Award
Paul Shuch trying to make "Contact" Paul Shuch displaying the Bruno Award

 

The 2000 Bruno Award description
Close up of the Giordano Bruno Award

Pictures by Pam Pinali

 

Message from Stuart Kingsley


Since I couldn't be present to make my "SETI Oscar" acceptance speech on Oscar day last week, I will do so here.  I wish to thank the members of The SETI League for the honor of this year's Bruno Award.  It is greatly appreciated.  It comes at a time when the optical search for extraterrestrial intelligence is receiving increased attention.  Little did I think when embarking upon this venture in the summer of 1990, that a decade later I would still be actively involved in Optical SETI.  Prior to 1990, I did not know that a limited amount of OSETI research had been done since 1961.  Next year, I chair the third SPIE conference on the subject.  This will mark the 40th anniversary of OSETI, though up to now very few people have appreciated the fact that the optical approach to SETI has considerable merit.  Interestingly, despite the fact that opposition to Optical SETI in the SETI establishment has substantially abated since the summer of 1998, there are still articles, books and documentaries on SETI-related subjects being produced that fail to mention the approach.  All it needs is the two extra words "and optical" when referring to radio or microwave SETI.  It is not necessary  to describe what Optical SETI is, but it does need a mention.

Let us hope that by 2010, we will have discovered extraterrestrial laser beacon signals and then know for sure that "we are not alone".  Of course, this may take space-based observatories, so it is important that future space-based optical observatories, whether they operate in the infrared, visible or ultraviolet spectrums, should be equipped to undertake Optical SETI observations.  I can confidently predict that by 2005, most SETI activities on this planet will be of the optical kind and that by 2010, most funding for SETI will be for the optical variety.

As far as The SETI League is concerned, the next decade will see its membership grow substantially, but driven by vast numbers of amateur optical astronomers who will have decided to take up the optical search.  Amateurs make significant contributions to conventional astronomy, so there is no reason why they should not do the same in the Optical SETI arena.  We have seen how successful SETI@Home has been in generating interest in Microwave SETI, from data collected by the Arecibo radio telescope.  How much more interest will be generated by the ability to collect ones own optical data or process data obtained over the Internet from other research groups!  For this reason, The Columbus Optical SETI Observatory intends to make its data available over the Internet when the present upgrade is completed next year.

April 1, 2000

 


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