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Written by: The Exchange

Jill Tarter has spent more than 40 years trying to answer the question, “Are we alone in the universe?” An astronomer and co-founder of the SETI Institute, she was the inspiration for Ellie Arroway, the alien-hunting protagonist made famous by Jodie Foster in the 1997 Robert Zemeckis film adaptation of Carl Sagan’s novel Contact.  Join us for Jill’s unique perspective on the search for extraterrestrial life as humanity peers out into the stars to determine who or what might be out there in the universe.  But that’s just one part of the inquiry.  Because as eager as we might be to get our first look at alien life, ultimately that discovery might reveal as much about ourselves as anything else.  Because once we know we are not alone, perhaps we might reflect on what binds us as fellow humans, potentially inspiring us to overcome our differences here on planet Earth.


Jill Tarter served as Project Scientist for NASA’s SETI program, the High Resolution Microwave Survey, and has conducted numerous observational programs at radio observatories worldwide. She currently serves on the management board for the Allen Telescope Array, which will simultaneously survey the radio universe for known and unexpected sources of astrophysical emissions, and speed up the search for radio emissions from other distant technologies by orders of magnitude. Jill’s work has brought her wide recognition in the scientific community, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from Women in Aerospace and two Public Service Medals from NASA. Many people are now familiar with her work as portrayed by Jodie Foster in the movie Contact.

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