The Planetary Society’s connections to Arecibo include SETI, the quest for extraterrestrial intelligence. In 1981, NASA and the Society joined forces to fund Suitcase SETI, a portable spectrum analyzer that could be installed on large radio telescopes such as Arecibo. The project spurred several other Society SETI efforts, including SERENDIP, a collaboration with NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the University of California, Berkeley to search for SETI signals in unrelated astronomical observations in Arecibo and other observatories. SERENDIP data was eventually channeled in [email protected], a popular computer program that enabled citizens around the world to look for SETI signals using additional computing power. The Planetary Society provided the project̵
Arecibo Observatory plays a role in Contact, the novel from the Planetary Society co-founder Carl Sagan from 1985 about a scientist who finds a message from extraterrestrial beings inside radio signals. The novel is based on a screenplay between Sagan and Ann Druyan and was adapted into a 1997 film starring Jodie Foster.
The Planetary Society is following the situation as the scientific community explores the possibilities of replacing Arecibo’s capabilities. Any additional activity at the telescope itself must prioritize the health and safety of engineers, scientists and technicians.