Welcome to the SETI Live Blog

We’re pleased to welcome you to the blog for SETI Live. We’re asking for the public’s help in searching for extraterrestrial (ET) in radio signals from space. SETI uses the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) and lots of computer power to search for these signals automatically – so you might ask why we need you to help us search the skies in SETI Live? The answer lies is the talents humans possess, and computers cannot quite replicate. With computers and human brains working together, SETI Live can do more: faster.

The researchers at the SETI Institute have spent years creating an automated search system called SonATA (SETI on the ATA). This system handles the hugely complex task of deciding what to do with the signals the ATA detects. The huge number of signals in a single observation means that even though it is very advanced, SonATA just cannot complete the various queries to classify whether or not the candidates are interesting before the next data acquisition cycle starts up.

In order to avoid uneven and unknown completion of signal classification, SonATA skips over many “crowded” frequency bands. We are literally blind to any ET signals that might be arriving at those frequencies. Overall, it’s only a few percent of the entire 1 to 10 GHz frequency range we are trying to explore systematically, but those might be the most important frequencies!

Faster processors will help, but we really need to better understand what signals are in those crowded bands, and what is generating them, so that we can help SonATA do a better job of classifying and finding any really interesting candidates buried underneath all this clutter. That’s where you come in. We want to use your eyes and brains to help us work through these crowded bands. We want you to tell us about all the signals/patterns you can see, and why you think they may be from ET technologies rather than our own.

You’ll have to be quick – the telescope will move onto its next target in about 90 seconds!

SETI Live has been created by the Zooniverse, the SETI Institute and TED, through the TED Prize to allow everyone to join the search. You can read more about the science on the main SETI Live site, and our quick tutorial will explain how to get started in analyzing the signals from the ATA. We don’t know how well this will work. We’ve never had an army of citizen scientists to help us before. Until now we’ve been blind to these frequencies. We want you to help us regain them, and see if there’s an ET signal hidden there. Eventually, we want to learn whatever tricks you use to do your classifications, so we can teach SonATA how to do it as well.

We think that SETI Live is going to be very interesting and fun! Join the search now…


About The Zooniverse

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19 responses to “Welcome to the SETI Live Blog”

  1. Jonathan H says :

    An interesting approach, I’ve been using SETI@Home since its inception and like that it requires zero user input. I wonder how this will hold up to the test of time. So far i’ve gone through ~50 classifications and it’s already starting to “get boring”. If everyone in the world did 50 though we would have a huge number of classifications in a short period. I look forward to watching this grow and evolve.

    • Jill Tarter says :

      Good question – is everyone going to get bored and go away? We certainly hope not, we hope you’ll become more expert and you’ll help us eventually figure out what the sources of these signals are. if they are particular satellites (ones that aren’t in geosynch orbit), then we can learn to observe a particular crowded band when the satellite is below the horizon at the site. We also hope you’ll become familiar with the various patterns that represent particular types of modulation for terrestrial communications, and concentrate on whether, in only one of the beams, there might be something else buried there. That could be a potential ET signal. And we’ll need your help to followup on it.

      Right now we are learning how to do this along with you.

      And BTW SETI@Home is a great project, but because it requires zero user input, it doesn’t encourage you to think about what you are doing, what it would mean if you detected a signal from another technology. It doesn’t encourage you to open up your perspective and see yourself as an Earthling. As you are working on SETI Live, I hope perhaps your view of yourself and your connection with the cosmos will change.

      Thanks for your help and comments and helping the tools evolve.

  2. cosmicphil says :

    Wow ! Unbelievable! I’m so excited to begin this SETI ; It’s so different than seti@home. Good Job ! Let’s go searching …

    From Brittany.


    • Jill Tarter says :

      Let us know what tools you’d like to have to better describe the patterns you are finding so that you and others can learn and remember those that recur and come from multiple directions on the sky. What we’d hope to find is a pattern that is mixed in among the others, but only shows up from one direction. Let’s go searching!

      • Dustin says :

        Being able to select more than one option (Diagonal, Vertical, Broken, etc) would be nice. Some signals clearly fall under more than one type. Also, maybe allow us to mark characteristics such as the strength of the signal and even if the pattern was identical in both beams which seems to indicate terrestrial.

      • Shubhang Singh says :

        we have only a few presets to describe the signal. it would be better if we could describe it in our own words rather thank think what all type of signal it can be.

      • gary connor says :

        jill i am on seti live and the page shows loading yet i am not getting anything to classify why and how do i fix the problem i am logged in and i do see the star fields just nothing to classify.

  3. Kyle says :

    One idea. It would be great if the web page didn’t scroll back up to the top every time you are done classifying a page. You then need to scroll back down to click the next button. Small thing, but over time it gets annoying. Other than that, very interesting.

    • Dustin says :


      Also, I don’t like the fact that when you “discuss” a pattern it opens a new tab. Before long you end up with a ton of tabs to close out.

  4. Tep says :

    I think that it is a good approach to let interested individuals participate in the search for intelligent life in the universe. I used the classification tool and found some clear signals. But I also found something that I would describe as an anomaly. There are distinct “mechanic” patterns in the frequency data in form of blank spots. Looking at and changing the focus on the visible data made me aware of the not visible part of the data. We assume that the intelligent life that we are looking for is using a technology that is known to us and works in a similar way so that we are able to detect it. What if that intelligent life that we are looking for is much more advanced than we are and is using a technology that we are not able to detect – at least not as clear and easy as we would like to? I think it would be useful to add a feature to the classification tool where I can draw a freehand line in order to point out abstract findings that could indicate that there might be something that we can not clearly detect.

  5. Yudy says :

    Jill Tarter.. you are my hero 🙂
    My kids (age 7,8) have watched your TED talks.. they are growing up with the idea that we’re a part of something much larger than the rock we live on. They have been going to our Observatory here in Houston since they were babies and it is now their favorite outing! . Thank you for inspiring the world to look out into the cosmos and realize how precious we are.. I hope I live long enough to see a paradigm shift here on earth.. where we recognize we’re part of a very large galactic neighborhood teeming with life!
    Your passion is contagious 🙂

  6. Qa'a says :

    It would be nice to have a discussion board, or a section here –> http://www.galaxyzooforum.org/.

  7. Scott says :

    What might an ET signal look like? There is no horizontal category, are they unnecessary to mark? Lastly, it’d be nice to have some context. For example, I recall a Scientific American SETI article with an excellent diagram of where we’ve listened, how far away, and at what sensitivity. Can that kind of diagram be made available online and dynamic?


    PS: we’re interpretive designers and would be thrilled to brainstorm exhibit ideas with you if the need arises!

  8. Nathan says :

    I am new here. I am just wondering what kind of signal I should mark? All different kind? Should I mark small suspicious line too? I have already found a straight line….does it mean anything?


  9. Sarah says :


    First, let me say how wonderful I think this is! Absolutely genius to put all of us inquiring minds to work 🙂

    Secondly, I for one would like to see more “pattern” types to choose from as well as examples of the “fainter” signals we should be looking for. I have gone through the tutorial, the scientific explanation, and discussion boards, but I still am not sure if the things I’m marking are correct! If I have what looks like a satellite signal do I need to mark it still? If so, which classification should I use if the signal is both erratic and broken and diagonal, what takes precedence? Secondly, there are several odd patterns I see being mentioned on the discussion boards that nobody knows what to do with, horizontal dark bands, odd mostly horizontal tire tread looking patterns, then there will be faint signals that seem to nearly line up but not through the entire vertical axis, only a small bit f it…. I just worry that I’m missing something, I think a lot of users are feeling that way. I do understand this is all a new forum/process, but I just wanted to leave my ideas somewhere! 🙂


    • Jill says :

      Sarah –
      Over the years of ‘babysitting’ the automated detection software we’ve seen lots and lots of patterns cropping up in the waterfall plots and given then colorful names such as tire tread, woodgrain, Dilbert’s boss etc. etc. Clearly more marking tools are needed to quickly capture this range of signals. Maybe even two types of marks, one for what you judge to be RFI (multiple beams) and another for other things you see in only one beam and think might be a candidate ETI signal. These new marking tools won’t show up overnight, but they will evolve in time. Suggestion on the discussion threads such as “I really could have used _______ (you supply the widget) to best describe the pattern I saw. Hopefully other volunteers will say: yes, but the widget should have a tail ets. etc. Iterations on the discussion pages can effectively provide the first rounds of prototype testing, so that whatever new tools we build are more likely to serve your/our needs.

  10. Naveen Kumar K says :

    Hi All ,

    Myslef Naveen Kumar K started reading articles related to space since last 20 years mow my age is 32, I am very much happy that I have found a website where in I can found , Learn and chat related to space my email id is ejobsforu@yahoo.com any one can email me and share their ideas welcome.

  11. FRANCISCO MEANA says :

    I think we’re talking about very specific signals OSL2000

  12. Jim Davis says :

    I heard the big bush yesterday to get the public involved in this program. But everytime I bring up the site, the telescope is inactive. If it is operating so little, why do you need the public?????

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