The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Dr. Jill CornellTarter
The SETI Institute

Friday, January 18th
Who is Jill Tarter?
Dr. Jill Tarter, Director of the Phoenix Project at the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), was the real-life model for Jodie Foster’s character in the movie Contact based on Carl Sagan’s book.
The Phoenix Project and Dr. Jill Tarter were the real-life models for Carl Sagan’s book, and the 1997 film, CONTACT, starring Jodie Foster.
Project Phoenix is the world’s most sensitive and comprehensive search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The research strategy is to detect extraterrestrial civilizations by listening for radio signals that are either being deliberately beamed our way, or are inadvertently transmitted from another planet. Project Phoenix, successor to the ambitious NASA SETI program, began observations in 1995 using the Parkes 210 foot radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia - the largest radio telescope in the Southern Hemisphere.

Phoenix doesn’t scan the whole sky. Rather, it scrutinizes the vicinities of nearby, sun-like stars. Such stars are most likely to host long-lived planets capable of supporting life.

Observations are currently being made each year using the 1,000 foot radio telescope at Arecibo, in Puerto Rico.
So far, no clearly intelligent extra-terrestrial transmissions have been found.

Dr. Jill Cornell Tarter recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to the field of exobiology, and in particular to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

Dr. Tarter earned a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of California at Berkeley. Her major field of study was theoretical high-energy astrophysics. Dr. Tarter joined the SETI Program at NASA’s Ames Research Center and later became Principal Investigator for the SETI Institute in Mountain View, CA.

Despite her extensive achievements, for years her daughter remained unimpressed; choosing to fill in forms requesting “mother’s occupation” with “looks for little green men.”