Laser SETI 2018

Hello and happy Trip Around the Sun 2018!  We’d like to help start your year in a positive way with a very exciting announcement.

Thanks to additional donations outside of the Indiegogo campaign, we’re going to be able to deploy EIGHT cameras instead of four, meaning that we can fully monitor two independent fields-of-view!  This is not only very exciting because we’re twice as close to all-sky coverage, but it’s an ideal balance between risk and progress.  We need to prove out the instrument, housing, and operations before putting too much hardware at risk, yet two fields-of-view enable us to compare and contrast what we see in two different parts of the sky.  This can be critical when you’re doing exploratory observations, for instance helping to distinguish instrumental effects from actual observed phenomena.

We’ll start by deploying two enclosures (four cameras) to the first site, then let those “bake” through the worst weather we can find.  Then, in the second half of this year, we’ll deploy the other two to another site thousands of miles away but pointing at the same two patches of sky.  Having four cameras from two sites looking at each patch of sky not only gives us stellar confidence in any events we observe, it also provides coverage in case one site has inclement weather.  That’s what it takes to watch all the sky all the TIME! 

The engineering model on the left (with some panels removed for visibility) is rapidly turning into reality!  The sun shade opens and closes, both in this movie and in real life, and we’re now focusing on the environmental sensor suite: GPS, accelerometers, temperature, barometer, and of course integrating data from local observatory weather systems.  We’re iterating on the mechanical drawings for the enclosure and box underneath which, in addition from protecting the equipment from the elements, will allow the whole system to be tilted forwards or backwards to facilitate field alignment across observatories.  The second pair of cameras have been delivered from the manufacturer, and we’re working with them on a software upgrade to speed the readout rate which might nearly double our sensitivity to short pulses! 

Following up on previous updates, if you missed the Facebook Live we did with Laser SETI scientist Eliot Gillum and Indiegogo campaign whiz Ly Ly, the first and second half videos are available on the SETI Institute Facebook page!  And finally, all perks were shipped at the end of Nov or early Dec, so we hope everyone has received their order and is now showing it off with the kind of pride and zeal normally reserved for pictures of a first-born child!

Thanks again, and more to come as it develops!