Public Star Night 16 November 2018 – Sarah Scoles – “A History of False Alien Positives”

Our speaker for this evening is Sarah Scoles, author of the book “Making Contact: Jill Tarter and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence”.

Finding extraterrestrial life, especially the smart kind, would be one of the most important discoveries humans had ever made. It would tell us we weren’t alone in the vastness of space, that we were both very special and not at all, and that biological processes are a fundamental part of the universe.
Perhaps that significance is the reason humans look so hard for aliens that we see them where they are not. As long as there has been SETI (and, in fact, even before that), there have been false positives — signs that seem to suggest the presence of smart life in the great beyond.
In this talk, Sarah Scoles will tell the stories of some of these incorrect eureka! moments, and the people involved with their discoveries (like astronomer Jill Tarter), and will look at how both the hypothetical aliens and their communications have changed throughout the decades.

Sarah Scoles is a Denver-based freelance science writer, a contributing writer at WIRED Science, a contributing editor at Popular Science, and the author of the book Making Contact: Jill Tarter and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Previously, she was an associate editor at Astronomy and a public education officer at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank, West Virginia. She has an MFA in Fiction Writing from Cornell University and a BA in Astrophysics from Agnes Scott College.

Weather permitting after the presentation, visitors will be invited to look through our large telescope at various celestial objects. Public star nights are held the third Friday of each month, except July, when we are closed for annual maintenance.

If you have any questions, please call the observatory information line at 970-613-7793
or check the LTO web site at

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