small logo SETI League Press Release

Backyard Beacon Bolsters Big Science
For more information contact: Dr. H. Paul Shuch, Executive Director
(201) 641-1770, or email info_at_setileague_dot_org

Little Ferry, NJ.., 15 April 2003 -- Last night, scientists from California's prestigious SETI Institute began two weeks of astronomical observations at Arecibo, Puerto Rico. But before they could start their search for intelligently generated signals from the stars, they had to find one from ... the Moon. For the second time in two years, the world's largest radio telescope received calibration assistance from a group of radio amateurs comprising the grassroots, nonprofit SETI League.

The SETI League operates a low-cost, high-tech moonbounce beacon that aims a stable microwave signal at the Moon. The weak echoes of that signal return to Earth, giving radio astronomers everywhere on this planet a precise source against which to check the operation of their equipment. The amateur scientists built their beacon in 2001, funded by a $5000 grant from the American Astronomical Society. Since then, a number of SETI League members around the world have used it to calibrate their amateur radio telescopes, and professional searches have found it useful as well. "Before you can search for the unknown," explains SETI League executive director Dr. H. Paul Shuch, "you have to make sure you can receive and recognize the known."

Last night's test was not without incident. Two hours before the Moon rose over Arecibo, SETI League volunteers worked to correct a computer problem that kept their website from displaying the beacon antenna's aiming coordinates. Then, although Arecibo received the beacon in the first hour of testing, a software error set a switch to the wrong position, and the signal was temporarily lost. The error was detected and the signal reacquired.

A photo essay documenting the entire moonbounce experiment may be downloaded from

SETI scientists seek to determine through microwave and optical measurements whether humankind is alone in the universe. Since Congress terminated NASA's SETI funding in 1993, The SETI League and other scientific groups have been attempting to privatize the research. Experimenters interested in participating in the search for intelligent alien life, or citizens wishing to help support it, should email to join_at_setileague_dot_org, check the SETI League Web site at, send a fax to +1 (201) 641-1771, or contact The SETI League, Inc. membership hotline at +1 (800) TAU-SETI. Be sure to provide us with a postal address to which we will mail further information. The SETI League, Inc. is a membership-supported, non-profit [501(c)(3)], educational and scientific corporation dedicated to the electromagnetic Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.

P.S. Tearsheets are always appreciated. Thank you.

Click to email the Webmaster
| Home | General | Memb Svcs | Publications | Press | Technical | Internet | Index |
entire website copyright © The SETI League, Inc.
this page last updated 15 April 2003
Click for top of page
Top of Page