July 24, 2019
I’m pleased to announce that plans are nearly complete for the first LaserSETI installation: at the Robert Ferguson Observatory (RFO) in Sonoma County, California! LaserSETI Principal Investigator, Eliot Gillum, has built a collaborative and productive relationship between the SETI Institute and RFO, after locating the site based on complex astronomical suitability criteria. Working closely with RFO founding board member Dr. Gordon Spear, RFO Board President Dave Kensiski, and RFO Executive Director Chris Cable, the final logistics are being worked out for the placement of LaserSETI’s first observatory at RFO’s idyllic facility.
Dr. Spear, who is also Emeritus Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Sonoma State University, said he is “extremely excited” at the prospect that RFO will be partnering with the SETI Institute, adding significantly to the scientific research being performed at RFO, since their primary mission is focused on education. RFO hosts numerous events, field trips, and a steady stream of drop-ins from the public, adding up to more than 8000 visitors each year. We hope that you will take advantage of this location to visit LaserSETI. RFO has been a 100% volunteer organization since its founding in 2000, until recently hiring its first executive director.
Andrew Fraknoi, SETI Institute Trustee and Emeritus Professor of Astronomy at Foothill College, provided the initial introduction to Dr. Spear, who became immediately intrigued by LaserSETI’s novel approach to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. “We’re thrilled to be able to make a difference for SETI in this way,” stated Dr. Spear. “There were some challenges gaining the buy-in of other board members.” He described that even with an educated group of astronomy advocates, the idea of SETI was not immediately well understood. But after sharing information about the SETI Institute and the LaserSETI proposal, the RFO board members quickly understood that not only is SETI extremely serious science, LaserSETI itself is cutting edge. Learning about the SETI Institute’s expansive public outreach and education programs “really sealed the deal.”
The SETI Institute looks forward to working closely with RFO to create a LaserSETI exhibit within RFO’s museum and classroom. We are now beginning discussions around educational programming opportunities upon which to collaborate, as well.
And, while it’s premature to make a formal announcement, I’m excited to share that we have been in discussions with an observatory in Hawaii for placing a matching set of LaserSETI instruments there, to pair with those at RFO. We’ve cleared a number of important hurdles and are very optimistic about having that site online soon after the RFO site is established.
So stay tuned for some very exciting LaserSETI announcements very shortly!