Friedman Lecture asks 'Are We Alone?' on April 9

March 27, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A free presentation titled "Are We Alone?" will take place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, in 100 Thomas Building. The program will be presented by Jill Tarter, the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project at the SETI Institute. The event is part of the 2012-13 Friedman Lecture Series in Astronomy, which is free and open to the public.

In her lecture, Tarter will share the story of how SETI investigators define life, their strategies for searching for life and the technology being used to continue the quest. She will describe how scientists have been using radio telescopes to search for signs of distant technological civilizations for several decades and how, as the lead scientist for Project Phoenix, she has used the largest radio telescopes in the world to search 750 nearby star systems for signs of life. She also will discuss her most recent project -- building and operating the Allen Telescope Array, which will consist of 350 radio telescopes that are each 6 meters in diameter, in order to continue the search.

"The movie 'Contact' is all about SETI, and the character played by Jodie Foster was loosely based on the work of Dr. Tarter," said Chris Palma, senior lecturer of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State. "This presentation will give audience members an appreciation for all of the hard work that went into the research that inspired this sci-fi story."

"The Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State is thrilled to have Dr. Tarter here to share her work with SETI," said Jason Wright, an assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics. "The search for life elsewhere in the Universe drives much of the work we do at the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds, and Dr. Tarter's visit offers us all an opportunity to contemplate and anticipate the ultimate realization of that quest: contact with an alien species."

Tarter received an undergraduate degree from Cornell University in 1966 and a doctorate in astronomy from the University of California at Berkeley in 1975. She has spent most of her professional career at Berkeley and the SETI Institute, and was one of the founding members of the SETI Institute in 1984. Because of her foundational work in the SETI field, she has won numerous awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from Women in Aerospace, two Public Service Medals from NASA, Chabot Observatory's Person of the Year award, a Women of Achievement Award in the Science and Technology from the Women's Fund and the San Jose Mercury News, and the Telluride Tech Festival Award of Technology. Tarter is a Fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the California Academy of Sciences. In 2004 Time Magazine named Tarter one of the 100 most influential people in the world and, in 2005 she was awarded the Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization at Wonderfest, the biannual San Francisco Bay Area Festival of Science.

The Friedman Lecture Series in Astronomy is hosted by the Penn State Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and is funded largely by the Ronald M. and Susan J. Friedman Outreach Fund in Astronomy. Friedman is a member of the department's Board of Visitors. Additional support comes from the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds, which also is hosting Tarter for a research presentation during her visit.

For more information contact Chris Palma by email at or 814-865-2255, or Jason Wright by email at or 814-863-8470.

  • Jill Tarter, SETI Institute

    The SETI Institute's Jill Tarter will discuss the search for extra terrestrial intelligence during a free public lecture on April 9.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated January 09, 2015