Project BETA

Project BETA is the Billion-channel ExtraTerrestrial Assay: a SETI program, conducted by the Harvard SETI group, which began observing in October 1995. Its predecessor, Project META, and other searches, had found occasional candidate signals with the expected characteristics of artificial transmissions but which did not repeat when later observations were made. This prompted a meeting on "Intermittency in SETI" at the SETI Institute in January 1994. As a result, the Harvard group determined that its next search system should incorporate means for (1) rapid and automatic reobservation of candidate events, (2) better discrimination of interference, through a simultaneous 3-beam configuration, and (3) coverage of the full 1.4 to 1.7 gigahertz (GHz) waterhole band of frequencies. Project BETA uses the Harvard-Smithsonian radio telescope at Oak Ridge and a 240 million channel Fourier spectrometer to analyze 80 million channels with 0.5 Hz resolution bandwidth and 40 megahertz (MHz) instantaneous bandwidth. As in the case of META, support for it comes from the Planetary Society, NASA, and private foundations. A freak wind shear caused severe damage to the Oak Ridge telescope in 1999 with the result that Project BETA was put on hold until funds could be raised by the Planetary Society to effect repairs.