Scientists and researchers believe we may be close to discovering life on other planets. The SETI Institute, the acronym for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is an American nonprofit research organization and remains the only U.S. organization fully dedicated to searching for life in the universe.


Established on November 20, 1984, the Institute began its research as one small project, NASA’s SETI program, with founder Tom Pierson and astronomer Jill Tartier. Since then, more research areas have been added to the organization’s impressive portfolio but interconnected in their understanding and search for life beyond Earth. Today over 100 scientists and specialists work to make their mission a reality. 


SETI’s Centers


SETI has three main centers that conduct research, outreach and education. 


The Carl Sagan Center for Research (CSC) is home to more than 100 scientists who have the expertise within various scientific areas concerning the development of life and where we might find it in the universe. While the research, funded by grants, is interconnected in its mission, they are broadly differentiated into three divisions including: From Big Bang to the Formation of the Stars, From Planets to Habitability, From Life to Complexity.


To help assist in the Center’s research, scientists use advanced technologies. The Allen Telescope Array (ATA), the first radio telescope designed from scratch to be used for SETI searches, allows researchers to use telescopes every day of the week. Before its development, all radio efforts by SETI were dependent on antennas’ intermittent use. Another unique asset, LaserSETI is designed to detect faint but rapid-fast pulsing laser signals that originate from deep space. They feature research, programs and expeditions to help support a community of space researchers and innovators on their site. 


The Center for Education is proactive in teaching students about the universe and the possibility of life amongst the stars. They also promote NASA and NSF-funded programs specific to STEM education that inspire children, young adults and teachers to focus on space sciences and astrobiology. Their full-rounded curriculum includes a set of resources for elementary and middle school teachers designed to excite children interested in learning about the possibility of life in the cosmos. They also have created a standards-based curriculum for a one-year integrated high school science program centered on evolution. Their Girls Go to Mars is a hands-on program aimed at engaging more middle school girls in STEM. The Center also supports the NASA Community College Network, the Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors and the NASA Science for Girl Scouts program, all of which aim to educate, foster and engage the development of STEM in students and participants.


The Center for Outreach is dedicated to sharing its research and discoveries with the public, an important mission of the organization since its inception. The nonprofit has a multitude of outreach activities and programs that include talks, publications and a weekly science show. SETI Talks, for instance, includes a monthly lecture series that explores research conducted by prominent scientists both at SETI and other space-research institutions. For those who want to keep on top of the latest research, SETI Live hosts discussions about current research and education projects as well as science news. Big Picture Science also keeps followers informed with a weekly, one-hour radio show hosted by a senior astronomer and SETI Institute Fellow and a science journalist. These are just a few among their news and outreach offerings.


Learn more in-depth information about the SETI Institute and its research on their website!