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Planetary Society OSETI Press Conference

Planetary Society Announces World's First Dedicated
Radio/Optical SETI Observatory

Hyatt Courtyard at the Hyatt St. Claire Hotel, San Jose, California
Monday, January 22, 2001
12:40 - 1:40 PM

After a Special Award to Charles Townes


Press Release

On Monday, January 22, 2001, The Planetary Society will announce the world's first dedicated Radio/Optical SETI Observatory at a press conference in San Jose, California. The Optical SETI Telescope, now under construction in Harvard, Massachusetts, will be the largest in the eastern United States, and will be used solely to search for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. (See attached press release.)

Press conference participants will include:

Moderator: Dr. Louis Friedman, Executive Director, The Planetary Society

Professor Paul Horowitz, Harvard University, Project Director for the Optical SETI Telescope
Professor Charles H. Townes, University of California, Berkeley, Nobel Laureate and first proponent of Optical SETI
Dr. Dan Werthimer, University of California, Berkeley
Dr. Stuart A. Kingsley, OSETI III Conference Chair & Director, COSETI Observatory

Location: Hyatt Courtyard at the Hyatt St. Claire Hotel, 302 S Market St, San Jose, CA

Date: Monday, January 22, 2001

Time: 12:40 - 1:40 PM

Contact: For more information, contact Susan Lendroth at 626-793-5100 ext 214 or by e-mail at susan.lendroth@planetary.org.

Note: The press conference will be held in coordination with The International Society for Optical Engineering's (SPIE's) OSETI III Conference. You are invited to come early at 12:15 PM for a special event conducted by the OSETI III Conference.

Susan Lendroth
Manager of Events and Communications
The Planetary Society
Telephone:(626) 793-5100 ext. 214 Fax:(626) 793-5528



They Beam From Outer Space?
The Planetary Society Sponsors a New Optical SETI Telescope

If alien civilizations are beaming laser messages across the galaxy, The Planetary Society is about to increase the odds of finding them when it opens its new Optical SETI Telescope in Harvard, Massachusetts early in 2002.  SETI stands for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

Designed to scan the sky for pulsed laser signals, the all-sky Optical SETI Survey will use a 1.8 meter (72 inch) diameter optical telescope dedicated exclusively to SETI.  When completed, the new telescope will be the largest in the eastern United States. Professor Paul Horowitz of Harvard University is the project leader.

"Using only 'Earth 2001' technology, we could now generate a beamed laser pulse that appears 5000 times brighter than our sun, as seen by a distant civilization in the direction of its slender beam," said Horowitz. "In other words, interstellar laser communication is altogether practicable.  The new Optical SETI Telescope will allow us to search the entire northern sky for such signs of intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy."

Horowitz and his team have designed and ordered a custom telescope and broken ground on construction of an observatory in which to house it in Harvard, Massachusetts.

Once operational, the new optical SETI observatory will search for brief pulses of light, covering the entire northern sky once every 200 clear nights.  Its special camera will stare at a stripe of sky with an array of 1024 ultrafast detectors, seeking flashes of light as short as a billionth of a second.

The Planetary Society is funding the project with a $350,000 grant, raised through contributions from its members.  David Brown, a member of the Society's New Millennium Committee, is providing half the funds through a matching gift challenge to Society members.

This project will be the twelfth SETI project sponsored by the Society since the organization began in 1980.  It is the latest in a long history of Society-supported SETI projects -- all with private funds -- which include several radio telescope searches and the internationally popular SETI@home project.  Over 2.6 million SETI@home users have joined the quest for extraterrestrial intelligence, using their home computers to help process SETI data.

Professor Horowitz has worked on SETI projects with The Planetary Society for nearly two decades now.  These include BETA, a radio telescope search in Harvard, Massachusetts; META in Argentina; and a search for laser communication from 13,000 selected stars.

Searching for continuous-wave laser SETI signals was first suggested by Robert Schwartz and Nobel Prize winner Charles Townes.  A few years later, Monte Ross showed the substantial benefits of very short laser pulses for interstellar communications.  Early optical SETI observations were made by Victor Shvartsman, Albert Betz and Stuart Kingsley.


Contact Susan Lendroth at (626)793-5100 ext 214 or by e-mail at susan.lendroth@planetary.org.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit http://planetary.org and http://www.oseti.org.

Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society in 1980 to advance the exploration of the solar system and to continue the search for extraterrestrial life. With 100,000 members in over 140 countries, the Society is the largest space interest group in the world.

Susan Lendroth
Manager of Events and Communications
The Planetary Society
Telephone:(626) 793-5100 ext. 214 Fax: (626)793-5528





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