The search for extraterrestrial intelligence: A “neglected” quest no longer?


“I’m an observer,” said astronomer Jason Wright. “I’ve always enjoyed the little corners that are being neglected.” In recent years Wright has been exploring one such neglected corner—the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI. He is optimistic that it will soon be full of activity.

Wright, associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University, expressed this hope to science writers visiting State College, Pa., for the ScienceWriters2019 conference. Speaking as part of the New Horizons in Science briefing organized by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing on Oct. 28, he shared a vision for SETI’s future.

That future, Wright pointed out, hasn’t always looked promising. The official SETI program at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was frequently a target of congressional ridicule and was terminated in 1993. Since then, other branches of SETI have suffered and dwindled owing to a lack of federal grant funding. SETI research has survived thanks to philanthropic donations.

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