IEE Lecture on Optical SETI
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Evening lecture at the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE).
THE SEARCH FOR EXTRATERRESTRIAL INTELLIGENCE
IN THE OPTICAL SPECTRUM (OPTICAL SETI)
Venue: IEE, Savoy Place, London WC2R 0BL, England Tel: 0171-240-1871 Fax: 0171-497-3633 Date: Tuesday, May 21, 1996 Time: 5:30 pm (tea at 5:00 pm) Abstract This talk will describe the rationale behind the optical search for extraterrestrial intelligence and the design and construction of the first Visible Optical SETI Observatory in North America. This is the world's first dedicated Optical SETI Observatory. The optical approach to searching for ETI technologies touches on a subject which for various reasons has yet to be accepted by the majority of the SETI community. The presenter has been investigating this subject since 1990. This talk deals primarily with the superiority of free-space interstellar optical (laser) beamed communications over its microwave counterpart. The advantage that free-space laser communications has over microwaves is demonstrated with respect to both future interstellar communications with our deep space probes and for SETI-type interstellar communications. The author has defined three types of Optical SETI: (a) Professional Optical SETI employing large telescopes and coherent heterodyne detection. (b) Professional Optical SETI employing large telescopes and incoherent direct-detection/photon-counting. (c) Amateur Optical SETI employing small telescopes and incoherent direct-detection/photon-counting. The Columbus Optical SETI Observatory which is presently under construction at the author's home and place of business, is based on the Meade LX200 25.4 cm (10") diameter Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope (SCT). This SCT, which is housed within a 10 ft. diameter dome, can be controlled remotely by computer. The automated observatory employs a high-speed photon-counter to analyze starlight and search for narrow laser beacon pulses from stars within a few hundred light years of earth. It is hoped that the observatory will be in a position to start collecting quantitative data by the summer of this year. Major engineering issues for the observatory concern the huge amount of data required to be collected during observations, and the appropriate signal processing techniques that can be applied at reasonable cost. DR. STUART A. KINGSLEY Biography Stuart A. Kingsley was born in London, England on May 15, 1948. He received a B.Sc. Honors and Ph.D. in Electronic and Electrical Engineering from The City University, London, England, and University College London, England, in 1972 and 1984, respectively. He arrived in the states in 1981, and went to work for Battelle Columbus Division as a Principal Research Scientist, becoming a Senior Research Scientist in 1985. He left Battelle in 1987 and established his own photonics consultancy business Fiberdyne Optoelectronics. Since 1992 he has been the VP for Engineering at SRICO, Inc. He is the Director of The Columbus Optical SETI Observatory which is shortly to be set up as a non- profit entity and is also President of ETI Photonics; the future business side for his Optical SETI activities. Stuart has been involved in producing a variety of fiber-optic sensors, including fiber-optic rotation sensors. He invented the fiber-optic line-stretcher and fiber-optic line-squeezer phase modulators that are important components in fiber-optic sensing systems. In 1984, he shared the prestigious Rank Prize in Optoelectronics with his thesis advisor Professor, Sir D.E.N. Davies (Chief Scientific Advisor to the British Ministry of Defence and IEE President in 1995/1996), for their pioneering work on fiber-optic sensing. He is the author of over 50 papers, mainly in coherent fiber-optic systems, the so-called fiberdyne effect or modal noise phenomena in fibers, and distributed fiber-optic sensing. He also has several patents, and has arranged and chaired sessions and two Optical SETI conferences for SPIE (The International Society for Optical Engineering). As VP of Engineering for SRICO, Inc., he is involved in the design and development of novel integrated optic electric-field and voltage sensing devices. He is a member of the IEE, a British Chartered Engineer, a senior member of IEEE, a member of Eta Kappa Nu Association, and belongs to various space interest groups. Other professional interests of his include the possible health effects of electromagnetic pollution, and the adverse effects of fluorescent lighting/VDT flicker. Presently, Stuart is pioneering the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) in the Optical Spectrum. He is constructing a prototype Visible Optical SETI Observatory based on photon-counting techniques. The aim of the observatory is to detect ultra-fast pulsed laser beacon signals emanating from star systems within a few hundred light years. He also runs a computer bulletin board (ETI Photonics BBS) in support of future world-wide Optical SETI activities, which eventually will allow real time Internet access to the data collected by the observatory. Suggested Background Reading: Stuart A. Kingsley (Editor), "The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) in the Optical Spectrum", SPIE Proceedings Vol. 1867, OE LASE '93, Los Angeles, California, January 21-22, 1993. Paul Davies, "Are We Alone? - Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life", Penguin Books, 1995. See page 94 for a brief mention of work on Optical SETI, and also the review of this book by Arthur C. Clarke in the March 17 issue of The Times Higher Educational Supplement (page 24). Barrie Jones, "Amateurs take up the search for life", Astronomy Now, October 1995, pp. 43-45. Stuart A. Kingsley and Guillermo A. Lemarchand (Editors), "The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) in the Optical Spectrum II", SPIE Proceedings Vol. 2704, Photonics West 96, San Jose, California, January 27-February 2, 1996. To be published.