- Written by Josh
The 15 August saw the anniversary of the rise to fame of the SETI programme. SETI is the Search Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.
This programme has been a long standing feature in space exploration having connections all the way back to Nikolai Tesla, who in 1896 first suggested that radio waves could be used to search for aliens. Since then people have used radio telescopes to scour the skies in search of life. SETI was the collective name given to projects involved in this search.
The Ohio State University SETI project shot to fame on 15 August 1977 with the detection of the 'WOW! This was a 72 second long strong transmission detected in the Sagittarius constellation. Famously Jerry Ehman circled the transcript of the signal writing 'Wow!' next to it in the margin, this gave rise to its name.
Many people suggested that this signal showed characteristics that could be expected from an artificial communication, details such as the frequency at which it occurred, the strength and duration of the signal. Others have suggested that it could be of natural origin, or even a reflected signal from Earth. Over the past years, many attempts to redetect the signal have been made, all being unsuccessful.
The SETI project was one of the pioneers in 'Citizen Science', the idea that anyone could contribute to scientific understanding. SETI achieved this by starting 'SETI@Home', this piece of software allowed users to contribute in a passive way. The software would run as a screensaver and would use the computer to analyse SETI data. Through this software over 300,000 computers have helped analyse data, meaning more information can be processed with less centralised resources needed.
These crowd sourced science projects are rapidly growing in popularity with sites like Galaxy Zoo, iNaturalist and Folding@Home covering topics from protein folding to biodiversity. Some of these encourage the users to take a more active role, Like Galaxy Zoo; where users log on and catagorise galaxies using their judgment and a small amount of training, whereas Folding@Home follows the more passive SETI style. Projects like these are fantastic ways for people to get involved and we encourage anyone with a little spare time and in interest in science to have a look.