How to use Setilive to help with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Among those who are interested in contacting alien civilizations, who would not like to be the first person to identify a contact? Plenty of interested parties are volunteering at SETI Live to monitor the space waves for any sign of intelligent life outside of the earthly sphere.

The SETI Live interface allows anyone with a web connection to join the search for signs other life. Mashable reports that the interface is somewhere between the Google Maps based game of “Where’s Waldo” and social networking through  Foursquare.

The log in and set up process is very easy. The only time that real name and information is requested is for optional entry to a contest where the winner will be treated to a trip to headquarters and a tour of the telescope facility.

After logging in, the the first badge is earned for signing up. Go to the top of the screen and hover over “Classify”. A drop down menu will give access to the tutorial.

Mashable says, “Once you log on and take a brief tutorial, the site flashes snapshots of radio-signal data. Then it’s your job to identify any suspicious patterns you may spot — a straight line among a sea of random streaks could be ET trying to say hello. Do it long enough and you’ll earn special badges.”

Here’s how SETI Live works:

SETI monitors space in tiny segments with radio telescopes that record mountains of signal noise. The signals are converted to data, then to graphic forms that represent various wavelengths, activities, and patterns. The search targets segments of outer space based on Kepler exoplanet discoveries, which have the best chances of hosting an alien civilization.The idea is that the human eye and brain are better at spotting something promising than any algorithm that could be written.

The people behind the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) have joined forces with Technology Entertainment Design (TED) and the Allen Telescope Array to create an easy to use website interface that allows everyone to look for promising radio signals. Zooniverse, a science organization that backs citizen science projects helped to build SETI Live.

How is SETI surviving? NPR reports that, after NASA funding was cut in 1993, SETI has had to use private fund raising and creativity to continue the search. In 2012, help came in the form of the Allen Telescope Array that is funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. This is a field of 20-foot-wide radio telescopes in California’s rural Hat Creek Valley that is jointly managed by the University of California at Berkeley. Now SETI scientists can continue the search.

SETI promises that,  “We’ll also be putting you “in the loop” where if enough of you see a potential extraterrestrial (ET) signal in the same data, then within minutes, the ATA will be interrupted and sent back to take a second look.” 

TED is a prize program for the leading entrepreneurs, innovators and entertainers with ideas of how to change the world. TED gives an annual $100,000 prize as a reward for top quality work. Jill Tarter is the SETI leader who won the prize in 2009.

SETI Live’s statistics counters show 14 classifiers, over 2 million classifications, 7100 people and and about 45 classifications a minute. With the help of volunteers who will earn badges as an incentive, SETI will be able to continue the search for other civilizations in outer space.