NewsSETI Goes Open Source with setiQuest

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For 25 years the SETI Institute has been combing through mountains of radio signal transmission data in search for alien life in the universe. Until now, the SETI software at the Allen Telescope Array has been running on custom hardware and closed source algorithms, but that’s all about to change.

In 2009, the Center for SETI Research Director Jill Tarter was awarded a TED Prize and a chance to make “a wish to change the world.” With that money, the SETI folks said that they now have the opportunity to move the search for extraterrestrial life to the next level.

“Until now, real-time SETI observations have relied on custom-built hardware,” Tarter explained. “Server technologies have now gotten fast enough to allow us to run on commodity clusters. This provides the opportunity to publish our signal detection code as open source, and invite smart coders around the world to make it better and add capabilities.”

She said that they currently do a good job of finding very narrowband signals buried deep in noise, but they have only limited sensitivity to more complex signals.

“With available cloud storage and processing resources,” Tarter said, “we can provide digital signal processing experts and students with a lot of raw data from the ATA and invite them to develop new algorithms that can find other types of signals that we are now missing.”

So over the next year, Tarter and the SETI Institute will be rolling out code and developing the setiQuest website to harness the power of the open source community and geeks across the globe in search of intelligent life in the universe.

You can join the quest here.

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