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

Small Dish SETI

Dear Dr. SETI:
I have a small dish, only 6 feet in diameter. Is there any SETI work I can do with such a small unit? It is on an ALT-Azimuth mount.
John S. (via email)

The Doctor Responds:
Absolutely, John! Although the "standard" backyard SETI dish is ten to twelve feet in diameter, nobody really knows what size is sufficient to detect an alien signal, because we've never yet found one. My calculations on the website show that a 12 foot dish will achieve a sensitivity which we assume to be sufficient to intercept the sorts of signals which advanced societies can generate -- but their capabilities are purely a matter of conjecture. If a civilization can generate four times the power we are assuming, then instead of a twelve foot dish, it will be detectable on a six footer.

Can they generate that much power? Who knows?!?

That small dish will make a nice hydrogen-line radio telescope (see the Mini-Manual on our website for an overview of what else you'll need), will easily detect the strongest half-dozen natural astrophysical sources, and who's to say it might not some day receive an artifically generated signal from Beyond?

So, good luck in building up your SETI station. I hope you'll choose to join The SETI League, and register your station as part of our Project Argus all-sky survey.

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