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OSETI Bruno Shows Vision
by Dr. Stuart Kingsley
skingsley @

Since I couldn't be present to make my "SETI Oscar" acceptance speech on Oscar day in March, I will do so here. I wish to thank the members of The SETI League for the honor of this year's Bruno Award. It is greatly appreciated. It comes at a time when the optical search for extraterrestrial intelligence is receiving increased attention. Little did I think when embarking upon this venture in the summer of 1990, that a decade later I would still be actively involved in Optical SETI. Prior to 1990, I did not know that a limited amount of OSETI research had been done since 1961. Next year, I chair the third SPIE conference on the subject. This will mark the 40th anniversary of OSETI, though up to now very few people have appreciated the fact that the optical approach to SETI has considerable merit. Interestingly, despite the fact that opposition to Optical SETI in the SETI establishment has substantially abated since the summer of 1998, there are still articles, books and documentaries on SETI-related subjects being produced that fail to mention the approach. All it needs is the two extra words "and optical" when referring to radio or microwave SETI. It is not necessary to describe what Optical SETI is, but it does need a mention.

Let us hope that by 2010, we will have discovered extraterrestrial laser beacon signals and then know for sure that "we are not alone". Of course, this may take space-based observatories, so it is important that future space-based optical observatories, whether they operate in the infrared, visible or ultraviolet spectrums, should be equipped to undertake Optical SETI observations. I can confidently predict that by 2005, most SETI activities on this planet will be of the optical kind and that by 2010, most funding for SETI will be for the optical variety.

As far as The SETI League is concerned, the next decade will see its membership grow substantially, but driven by vast numbers of amateur optical astronomers who will have decided to take up the optical search. Amateurs make significant contributions to conventional astronomy, so there is no reason why they should not do the same in the Optical SETI arena. We have seen how successful SETI@Home has been in generating interest in Microwave SETI, from data collected by the Arecibo radio telescope. How much more interest will be generated by the ability to collect one's own optical data or process data obtained over the Internet from other research groups! For this reason, The Columbus Optical SETI Observatory intends to make its data available over the Internet when the present upgrade is completed next year.

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