We are a class of undergraduate/graduate students at UCLA attempting to answer one of the most profound scientific questions of our time: Are we alone in the universe?
Recent astronomical surveys suggest that the universe may be brimming with exoplanets. What's even more exciting is that many of these planets may exist in the habitable zone of their star, making them ideal candidates for supporting the development of life. Take for example the recently discovered TRAPPIST-1 system, which contains seven planets, five of which are similar in size to Earth. Three of these planets orbit their host star in the habitable zone, and a recent study has found that at least one could be an Earth-like ocean world. The observational evidence suggests that there may be billions of habitable worlds in our galaxy.
Under the guidance of Professor Jean-Luc Margot, UCLA students will learn how to conduct observations of planetary systems and perform a search for extraterrestrial civilizations. That’s right, we will execute a search from beginning to end: we will carefully select sources to examine, design an optimized observing program, conduct the observations remotely with the 100-m Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, download 4+ terabytes of data, write custom software to analyze our data, and sift through the results in the search for signatures of extraterrestrial civilizations.
As a result of our efforts to answer this scientific question, we will develop many new skills including collaborative software development, signal processing, data mining, statistics, and data visualization. We will build on the tools created by earlier UCLA SETI classes and improve our data processing pipeline. Each student will have the opportunity to search through the observations of their selected target to look for promising signals. Our results will be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, in which every student will be listed as a co-author - a tremendous accomplishment for undergraduate students.
You can read some of the results from the UCLA SETI classes of 2016 and 2017 here.
To perform our observations, we need to purchase two hours of telescope time ($3,100). In addition, we need to purchase a new server with enough capacity to store our data ($16,000). Finally, we need to disseminate the results of our search and enable students to present at conferences such as meetings of the American Astronomical Society ($2,400 in registration, transportation, and lodging costs). Thanks to a $9,000 gift from generous donors (Michael Thacher and Rhonda Rundle), we are within reach of our goal, but we are still $12,500 short.
Finding evidence of another civilization sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Well, it could happen here at UCLA, and it would only be possible because of you, our generous donors!
Even if we do not detect a signal, we will still learn skills that will be extremely valuable to our professional development. The Spring 2019 SETI course will be project based, and we will be learning firsthand how to analyze big data. Moreover, we will learn how to problem-solve together in small groups, how to improve our interpersonal and public communication skills, and how to report our results in a professional manner. These skills will serve us well in our careers and beyond. As a donor, not only will you bring humanity closer to answering a burning existential and scientific question, but you will also enable our development as scientists and engineers.
The UCLA SETI course has been offered three times since 2016 and it has been well received. Students are excited to contribute to the search, which creates a stimulating learning environment for everyone involved. In fact, our data processing pipeline was written by students, some of whom have very little programming experience at the beginning of the course. Here is a two-minute video that describes student impressions. With your generous donation, you will make the course possible and enrich the student experience. Thank you for your support!
of Thanking You
All gifts bring us closer to answering this question. You will receive a special thank you video of an 8-clap from the Spring 2019 SETI class. (fully tax deductible)
Do you have a burning SETI-related question that you'd like to be answered? Ask a question about our project via email and you will receive a response from Prof. Margot and/or the SETI team, and all previous perks. (fully tax deductible)
Now you can show the world that you're partnering with UCLA on SETI research! You will receive an honorary SETI research partner certificate and you will be acknowledged by name in our peer-reviewed publication, and all previous perks. (fully tax deductible)
Let's get together - here on Earth. With your $500 donation, you'll meet the students whose research you've supported and join them for the observation run and/or the final presentations, plus all previous perks. (fully tax deductible)
You're out of this world. You may select a source from a predefined list of planetary systems for us to observe with the Green Bank Telescope. We will perform the observation in your name and we will send you a report with a few of the most interesting signals found during the scan of your source after the data have been processed, and all previous perks. ($2490 tax deductible) Disclaimer: the UCLA SETI Group does not have the authority to formally name a celestial source – only the International Astronomical Union has that authority.