Optical SETI Comes of Age
H. Paul Shuch
For many years the microwave Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI)
held the spotlight, while the number of optical SETI observatories on this
planet could be counted on the thumbs of one hand. In the five years since
the last Optical SETI Conference, that has begun to change, with optical SETI
finally emerging into the scientific mainstream. Advancing technology is
only partly responsible for OSETI's change of fortune. This author
believes that the ultimate acceptance of the optical search strategy can be
attributed to the tireless efforts of a single pioneer. Recent pioneering
efforts in microwave SETI have met with similar resistance from the established
SETI community, reminding one of an adage from the American West: pioneers end
up with arrows in their backs. The SETI League's Project Argus sky survey,
for example, which seeks to do credible science with modest amateur equipment,
designed, built and operated by dedicated non-professionals, continues to draw
criticism from the SETI establishment. Many traditional radio astronomers
still believe that SETI requires the kinds of facilities which only governments
can afford. This paper explores optical SETI's recent move from the
sidelines to center stage, in search of lessons which the world's amateur
microwave SETIzens can learn from our dedicated optical brethren.
Optical SETI, Microwave SETI, Amateur Radio Astronomy, Project Argus, sky survey
The author, an aerospace engineer credited with the design of the world's first commercial home satellite TV receiver, received his Ph.D. in Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and taught for 24 years. He is the founding Executive Director of The SETI League, Inc., a membership-supported educational and scientific nonprofit which has emerged as the leader in a grass-roots Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Paul is the author of over 250 publications. He is a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society, serves as a fellowship interviewer for the Hertz Foundation, a manuscript reviewer for several peer reviewed journals, has been an advisor to the National Science Foundation, and is a military program evaluator for the American Council on Education. Paul's honors include the Robert Goddard Scholarship, the Hertz Fellowship in the Applied Physical Sciences, the Horonhjeff Grant, the Hertz Doctoral Thesis Prize, the EAA Safety Achievement Award, the John Chambers Memorial Award, the ARRL Technical Achievement Award, and the Dayton Hamvention Technical Excellence Award.
Executive Director, The SETI League, Inc.