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News Release: September 2, 2014 at 8:31 pm

SETI, Astrobiology Pioneer Awarded Jansky Lectureship

Dr. Jill C. Tarter, 2014 Jansky Lecturer
Credit: SETI Institute

Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) have awarded the 2014 Karl G. Jansky Lectureship to Dr. Jill C. Tarter, of the SETI Institute. The Jansky Lectureship is an honor established by the trustees of AUI to recognize outstanding contributions to the advancement of radio astronomy.

Tarter is being honored for her role in pioneering methods of searching for extraterrestrial intelligence and for her leadership in the emerging field of astrobiology. Currently the Bernard Oliver Chair for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, she is the former director of that institute’s Center for SETI Research.

She received a Bachelor of Engineering Physics with Distinction from Cornell University, and Master’s and Ph.D degrees in Astronomy from the University of California at Berkeley. She was Project Scientist for NASA’s SETI program, and, when funding for that program was terminated in 1993, she led efforts to obtain private funding to continue the search at the SETI Institute. Tarter is the scientist after whom Jodie Foster’s character in the movie “Contact” was modeled.

Tarter is credited with coining the term “brown dwarf” to describe objects larger than planets but too small to trigger the thermonuclear reactions in their cores that power stars.

Tarter has received numerous awards in recognition of her achievements, including a Lifetime Achievement Award by Women in Aerospace in 1989, being named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2002 and a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences in 2003. Also in 2003, she received the Adler Planetarium Women in Space Science Award, and was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine in 2004.
Throughout her career, Tarter has been deeply involved in the education of future citizens and scientists. In addition to her scientific leadership at NASA and the SETI Institute, she has been the Principal Investigator for two curriculum development projects funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA, and others. These are the “Life in the Universe” series of science teaching guides for grades 3-9, and “Voyages Through Time,” an integrated high-school science curriculum on the fundamental theme of evolution. She is a frequent speaker at science teacher meetings and museums and science centers, bringing her commitment to science and education to both teachers and the public.

As Jansky Lecturer, Tarter will give a presentation entitled, “Are We Alone? Searching for Intelligent Life Beyond Earth.” The lecture is scheduled for 27 October in Charlottesville, Virginia; 30 October in Green Bank, West Virginia; and 7 November in Socorro, New Mexico. These lectures are open to the public.

This is the forty-ninth Jansky Lectureship. First awarded in 1966, it is named in honor of the man who, in 1932, first detected radio waves from a cosmic source. Karl Jansky’s discovery of radio waves from the central region of the Milky Way started the science of radio astronomy. Other recipients of the Jansky award include seven Nobel laureates (Drs. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Edward Purcell, Charles Townes, Arno Penzias, Robert Wilson, William Fowler, and Joseph Taylor) as well as Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, discoverer of the first pulsar, and Vera Rubin, discoverer of dark matter in galaxies.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.


Dave Finley, Public Information Officer
(575) 835-7302

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