Earlier this year, immediately after the OSETI II conference, Joseph Horwath suggested to me that a proposal could be submitted to The Space Telescope Science Institute for time on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to undertake OSETI observations. This is an idea that first crossed my mind in 1990. Then, the idea was that the HST could be retrofitted for OSETI observatory work after its scheduled 15 year lifetime for conventional optical astronomy came to a close. Here now is some flesh to this idea. A three phase approach is proposed, with Phase 1 starting within the next couple of years.
These ideas are presented in the full knowledge that despite the "Origins Program", NASA has been forbidden by Congress to have anything to do with (electromagnetic) SETI - but times will change!
Provide time on the HST to undertake observations in the near-infrared to ultraviolet of the spectra of a selected group of targeted solar-type stars that are presently favored by Project Phoenix. We would be looking for monochromatic (continuous wave) laser beacon signals, using the existing spectrographs.
Retrofit the HST with a much higher resolution spectrograph and conduct more OSETI observations for continuous wave (cw) laser beacons.
Retrofit the HST with ultra-fast optical detectors and photon counters and conduct OSETI observations for pulsed laser beacons.
Present NASA plans call for the launch in 2005 of an 8-meter Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST) to replace the HST. This telescope will have near-diffraction limited optical quality in the range of wavelengths between 500 and 5,000 nm. Now would be a good time to consider outfitting the NGST with the means to search for both continuous wave and pulsed laser beacons throughout its extended range of operational wavelengths.
Whenever we look for something with new high-resolution technology, we are likely to find the unexpected.
Stuart Kingsley, 1996
Update (August 3, 1997)
1997 SBIR Solicitation
The following topics from the just-released NASA SBIR Solicitation concern the NGST and measuring astrophysical phenomena.
For information about downloading the complete 1997 NASA SBIR Solicitation, please click below.