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Is Anyone Out There? New SETI Tool Keeps Track of Alien Searches

Allen Telescope Array in California.
A view of the Allen Telescope Array in California. (Image credit: SETI Institute)

With research on extraterrestrial life continuing across the world, a noted researcher from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute launched a new tool to help researchers keep track of results.

Jill Tarter, a co-founder of the institute who inspired the fictional character Ellie Arroway in the Carl Sagan novel "Contact" (which later became a 1997 movie), led the development of a newly announced web tool called Technosearch. This database includes all published SETI searches between 1960 and the present day. You can view the database online at

Ina Jan. 9 statement announcing the database, SETI representatives said that they hope the entire SETI community will work together to keep Technosearch accurate and up to date. The tool is meant to address the ongoing need in the community for a resource representing the hundreds of searches conducted in the sky. [13 Ways to Search for Intelligent Aliens]

"I started keeping this search archive when I was a graduate student," Tarter said in the statement. "Some of the original papers were presented at conferences or appear in obscure journals that are difficult for newcomers to the SETI field to access. I'm delighted that we now have a tool that can be used by the entire community and a methodology for keeping it current."

Technosearch was developed by Tarter with Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) interns working at the SETI Institute, including San Francisco State University student Andrew Garcia, who presented Technosearch to the American Astronomical Society at its winter meeting in January. Penn State graduate students Will Bowman and Caleb Cañas, working with stellar astrophysicist Jason Wright, also contributed data from their search of the SETI literature.

"I've become convinced that Technosearch will become an important instrument for astronomers and amateurs interested in exploring the cosmos for indications of other technological civilizations," Garcia said in the statement. "We can't know where to look for evidence tomorrow if we don't know where we have already looked."

Technosearch was released yesterday (Jan. 9) at the 223rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society during a poster session.

Editor's Note: This article was corrected to clarify the affiliation of Alex Garcia.

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is pursuing a Ph.D. part-time in aerospace sciences (University of North Dakota) after completing an M.Sc. (space studies) at the same institution. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @HowellSpace.