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Overview of SETI Signal Processing: In Search of Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence

May 9 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm PDT

SETI, or the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, attempts to answer one of humanity’s oldest questions: Are we alone in the universe? While astronomers have devoted significant effort to finding exoplanets and trying to observe evidence of remote astro-biology, a parallel exploration involves observation of “technosignatures”, or radio signals that originate outside the solar system with characteristics suggesting an intelligent source.
In many ways radio SETI is a special class of communications problem in the realm of electrical engineering, with aspects of game theory in the mix. Consider the challenges: the signal is unknown, and may be intentional (a beacon) or unintentional (involving navigation or communications). The transmit frequency is unknown. If a limited message is sent, the modulation will be unknown, and even if bits are produced, the message must be decoded. Energy or geometry may limit persistence, so only a small fraction of observations in any pointing direction will have a chance at detection. Without knowledge of the signal, matched filtering is not possible. Link budgets may force limits on the signal bandwidth (narrowband tones) or time duration (pulse trains).
This talk will introduce the SETI problem and describe the scope of efforts underway in the radio SETI community. Search strategies to maximize detection rate will be described, and narrowband SETI algorithms will be introduced. In recent years, SETI search capabilities have vastly improved with the use of interferometric arrays covering GHz-class bandwidths, commensal observing, and the use of racks of GPU-enhanced servers, significantly raising the potential for new discoveries.
Speaker(s): Kenneth Houston
Event Agenda
1. Intro & Announcements- SPS & ComSoc East Bay Chapters 6.00-6.15 PM
2. Presentation – SETI Signal Processing 6.15-7.00 PM
3. Networking with Cocktail Food & Refreshments 7.00-8.00 PM
Room: 430, Bldg: Soda Hall, Wozniak Lounge, University of California Berkeley, 1860 Le Roy Ave, Berkeley, California, United States

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