Astronomer searches for alien life 

Seth Shostak, the SETI Institute astronomer and author of “Confessions of an Alien Hunter,” will explain his quest for alien communications at an April 30 Explorers Club event at the University Club, 800 Powell St. Tickets are $60. For more information, visit

How do you try to find extraterrestrial radio communications? We use very large antennas and point them in the direction of nearby star systems that we suspect have planets that would be suitable for life, even for intelligent life, and we just look for a signal that would tell us there’s somebody there clever enough to build a transmitter.

How would such a discovery affect society? We would be hearing from a society that is almost certainly far more advanced than ours. If we could understand it, it would be the equivalent of hearing from the future.

What if we couldn’t understand it? We would at least know that what happened here on Earth is not some kind of highly improbable event — it would mean that we’re just another duck in the row.

Would we want to reply? I expect that anybody with a backyard antenna and the ability to use a transmitter is likely to want to send their own their personal poetry to the aliens.

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John Upton

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