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Help Wanted: SETI Logging Software

As full implementation our Project Argus sky survey becomes a reality, SETI League engineers are trying to pull together the most promising hardware, software and operational guidelines into a standard set of recommendations. The basic amateur SETI system is now rather well defined, down to the point of digital signal processing. But what happens after the ones and zeroes have been fast-Fourier transformed, and a coherent signal detected? An operator staring at a computer screen 24 hours a day is hardly viable. What is needed is a way to automate the signal analysis and alerting process. Along the way, we can use softwre to coordinate the activities of the thousands of experimenters who will untimately form the Project Argus network. If you're a programmer, this is an area in which you can make a significant contribution to the art and science of SETI.

What I envision (and have absolutely no idea how to accomplish) is as follows.

A signal is detected which fits certain (user-programmable) selection criteria, such as, for example:

  1. a particular amplitude or signal-to-noise ratio
  2. a specific duration, correlated to the antenna's beamwidth
  3. a Doppler shift signature consistent with the Earth's rotation

The computer then automatically:

  1. saves that data to disk,
  2. makes lights ring and bells flash, and
  3. auto-dials a modem to alert other participants, sending a message thru our listserv as to time, location, antenna coordinates, frequency, etc.

That's Phase One, and it's quite a task in itself. But if that's not enough to get your creative juices flowing, there's always Phase Two. It would be nice if the station receiving an alert message could automatically:

  1. tune its receiver to the frequency of interest
  2. aim its antenna at the coordinates of interest
  3. report its findings, through the Internet, to all other Project Argus participants

The above problem should pose a challenge to the best software engineers in our midst, in that it incorporates signal analysis, interface design, instrumentation control and adaptive protocol considerations. Our Software Committee is hard at work trying to make the above desires a reality. Any SETI League member wishing to assist is encouraged to email our Software Committee chairman Dan Fox. We will distribute the resulting software via this Web site. You may also care engage in the software dialogs conducted on the Argus technical email discussion list. Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

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