Since Project Ozma, SETI experiments have continued in the U.S. and elsewhere-also with no results. SETI research remains a hard sell, especially to elected officials doling out public funds.
Public funding for the search for "little green men" has become the third rail of astronomy-witness NASA's short-lived HRMS or High Resolution Microwave Survey Targeted Search Program of 1992-93. HRMS was ridiculed by so many U.S. Congress members that they ended up canceling the effort, just a year after it began, with considerable media-supported flourish.
In the aftermath of the HRMS fiasco, organizations such as the SETI League, and the privately funded SETI Institute of Mountain View, Calif., continue hardcore scientific SETI research . The SETI field has also branched out to include optical SETI, the search for visible alien transmissions-such as laser beams-that might, it's theorized, be a better means of communications over vast distances than radio.
With the SETI, the question remains: do we really want to contact other intelligent species? And will they be friendly or hostile?
What's in the Sky: This week, look north near the constellation Cassiopiea. With binoculars, you can see the open star cluster Stock 2. Draw lines from Miram in Pegasus up to Eps Cas in Cassiopeia to Ruchbah and back to Miram. Object is about 10 -12 above the horizon. Many deep space objects here. See clusters NGCs 884 and 869, Mel 13, and Cr 33.
Lou Varricchio, M.Sc., is a former senior science writer at the NASA Ames Researcg Center. He is currently NASA-JPL Solar System Ambassador in Vermont. You can follow him on Facebook.