The Age of SETI
by Lawrence Squeri
In 1960, Frank Drake (b. 1930) used the radio telescope at West Virginia’s Green Bank Observatory to search for ET. He aimed the radio telescope to two nearby star systems, Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani, both less than twelve light years from Earth, hoping that intelligent life was beaming radio messages to Earth. Although Drake detected nothing, he has the honor of being the first to use a radio telescope to search for extraterrestrial life.
Other astronomers have followed in Drake’s footsteps. Their effort is known as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence or SETI. As we all know, ET has not called, or, if ET has called, astronomers have not detected the signal.
By the way, ET may be a She or an It. We cannot assume ET has a gender that fits life’s division on Earth.
If extraterrestrials exist and share our curiosity, why the silence? Maybe, ET’s silence may be due to the unfortunate fact that high intelligence – defined as the ability to transmit interstellar radio signals – is confined to Earth. Or maybe ET is using a medium other than radio. He, she, or it is using a communications technology beyond the comprehension of us benighted humans.
Or maybe ET may have beamed radio signals some one hundred years ago, when human technology could boast of submarines and airplanes but no radio telescopes. ET’s message was undetected and unanswered. ET turned to other pursuits.
Or maybe ET has a high intelligence but lacks curiosity.
Meanwhile, Frank Drake who has launched the SETI Age remains hopeful. He tells us to keep on listening.