Where in the Worlds has SETI Institute Been? Apr 2 - 8, 2018

Curiosity roverProtecting Earth from Martian Microbes

With plans already underway to collect samples from another world for possible return to Earth with NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, SETI Institute Senior Scientist John Rummel, along with Gerhard Kminek with the European Space Agency, suggests now is the time to develop new protocols to address potential biohazards. As reported in Air and Space Magazine, while the risk may be low, the consequences of inadequate planetary protection procedures could be devastating. Rummel, a former planetary protection officer for NASA, noted in a March piece for the Outline that we simply don’t yet know the extent of the risk:

“You don’t know if there is life on Mars, or literal viruses left over from life on Mars, or ancient viruses that are actually leftover from life on Earth that get transported there by an asteroid impact,” Rummel said.

With the first samples from Mars possibly arriving as soon as 2029, scientists have a narrowing window in which to plan and put in place the safety measures needed to protect Earth. Rummel and Kminek’s paper, published in Astrobiology, marks that urgency and proposes updated protocols to modernize the existing ones, which have been unaltered for about 16 years.

freakonomics radioSETI on the Air

The kick-off episode of I Need My Space featured Seth Shostak, senior astronomer for the SETI Institute, to discuss the likelihood of discovering alien life in the near future, what they might look like, and if we’ll encounter alien A.I. from distant civilizations.

On a more terrestrial note, Bill Diamond, President and CEO, made an appearance on Freakonomics to offer his perspective on what sets human beings apart as a species:

I believe it is our curiosity, and specifically the curiosity of the why and the how, that is the essence of our humanity and separates us from all other species on this planet.

Are you a podcast junkie? Big Picture Science - hosted and produced by the aforementioned Dr. Shostak, right here at the SETI Institute - offers uncommonly entertaining dialogue with top scientists and innovators. Tune in to hear smart storytelling about emerging research and technologies, and their impact on our world.

Pioneer spacecraftRemembering the Pioneer Spacecraft

Back in the late 1970’s, scientists sent two spacecraft to explore the outer solar system. Aerotech News reflected on the Pioneer 10 and 11 missions and legacy – they were the first craft to complete missions to Jupiter and Saturn, respectively. In addition to various scientific instruments, both probes carried something special: a plaque designed by famed astronomer and cosmologist Carl Sagan, in collaboration with Frank Drake, Chair Emeritus of the SETI Institute Board of Trustees and the first researcher to conduct modern SETI experiments. Dr. Drake is probably best known as the creator of the Drake Equation, a model for exploring the probability of advanced life in the universe. You can find out more about the Drake Equation and other topics at SETI.org.

solar systemUnderstanding the Young Sun and Early Solar System

NASA invited the media to tune into a livecast featuring astrobiology experts at an interdisciplinary conference hosted at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Among the presenters was SETI Institute scientist Meng Jin, who presented on some of his work on solar activity and modeling the behavior of the young Sun.

brain dustBig Picture Science:

Last week, Hawkingravity payed tribute to the life, work and legacy of Stephen Hawking. This week, the encore of Brain Dust sheds light on the mysteries of the human brain.

Facebook Live

Last week featured two Facebook Live interviews! On April 3rd, SETI scientist Franck Marchis sat down with Guilhem Anglada-Escude and Svetlana Berdyugina at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS) to discuss the search for exoplanets in the Alpha Centauri system. On April 5th, CEO Bill Diamond and acting director Pamela Harman celebrated the career and contributions of the recently retired Director of Education and Outreach, Edna DeVore.

Videos of all past Facebook Live events can be found on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SETIInstitute/


  • AAS Dynamical Astronomy Public Lecture: April 16, 2018, San Jose, CA featuring Cristobal Petrovich
  • Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series: April 18, Los Altos Hills, CA SETI Institute scientists Michael Busch will speak
  • SETI Talks: April 19, 2018, Menlo Park, CA John Rummel and Robert Zubrin on Planetary Protection
  • California Academy of Sciences: April 21, 2018, San Francisco, CA Franck Marchis will demonstrate the Unistellar eVscope
  • Montalvo Arts Center: April 27, 2018, Saratoga, CA Life Beyond Earth featuring SETI Artist in Residence Felipe Pérez Santiago, Director of SETI AIR Charles Lindsay and SETI Institute co-founder Jill Tarter
  • Girl Scouts: April 28, 2018, San Francisco, CA The annual Girl Scouts Bridging walk across the Golden Gate Bridge and gathering in Chrissy Field Pamela Harman, Acting Director of Education will participate
  • Hive Summit, May 2 SETI Institute Senior Scientist Franck Marchis will speak
  • Palo Alto Jewish Community Center, May 2, Palo Alto, CA Seth Shostak to of offer SETI Talk presentation
  • Association of Computer Professionals in Education: May 4, Welches OR Seth Shostak to participate in annual conference
  • San Mateo County Astronomical Society May 4 SETI Institute Senior Scientist Franck Marchis will present

    The Villages: May 8, San Jose, CA Seth Shostak to offer talk about SETI

  • Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series: May 15, Los Altos Hills, CA Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto with Alan Stern and SETI Institute Scientific Advisory Board member David Grinspoon