The SETI League, Inc., a membership-supported, non-profit {501(c)(3)}, educational and scientific organization Searching for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence

Ask Dr. SETI ®

Chapter 6: Technology

Searching with Direct Broadcast Satellite Dishes

Dear Dr. SETI:
Many of us live in apartment, condos or 'controlled neighborhoods' that do not allow 10 meter dishes and the like. But I am wondering if anyone is using the small 16" dishes that is made for PrimeStar and USSB television reception. Are they too small? Can they not be modified to do any useful scans?

Keep up the good work.
SB, Winston-Salem, NC

The Doctor Responds:
Unfortunately, the Ku-band DBS dishes don't appear particularly practical for interstellar communications. All of our sensitivity calculations are based upon the gain of the larger C-band dishes. (Of course, if we happen to be off by several orders of magnitude as to what power levels other civilizations might be transmitting, then all bets are off! But practically speaking, we tend to calculate capabilities assuming radiated powers similar to those emanating from Earth. That's the conservative approach.)

I doubt that it's practical to scan the skies with the Direct Broadcast Satellite dishes, but they've proven a boon to amateur SETI in another way. Since their proliferation, an abundance of the old-style BUDs ("Big, Ugly Dishes") have come up for grabs, and many of our members are acquiring them to build their own SETI stations.

If you happen to be an apartment dweller or similar, it may not prove feasible for you to build your own SETI station. However, don't be discouraged; there's much else which you can contribute to our quest. We are ever in need of hardware designers and programmers and writers and public speakers and fundraisers and ... the list is endless. And of course, they also serve who merely pay their dues. Since The SETI League receives no Government support whatever, by just becoming a member you're helping us to complete the research Congress wouldn't let NASA finish. We do hope you'll be choosing to join The SETI League.

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