Overview of SETI Signal Processing: In Search of Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence

#SignalProcessing #Communications #SETI


SETI, or the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, attempts to answer one of humanity’s oldest questions: Are we alone in the universe? While astronomers have devoted significant effort to finding exoplanets and trying to observe evidence of remote astro-biology, a parallel exploration involves observation of “technosignatures”, or radio signals that originate outside the solar system with characteristics suggesting an intelligent source.

In many ways radio SETI is a special class of communications problem in the realm of electrical engineering, with aspects of game theory in the mix. Consider the challenges: the signal is unknown, and may be intentional (a beacon) or unintentional (involving navigation or communications). The transmit frequency is unknown. If a limited message is sent, the modulation will be unknown, and even if bits are produced, the message must be decoded. Energy or geometry may limit persistence, so only a small fraction of observations in any pointing direction will have a chance at detection. Without knowledge of the signal, matched filtering is not possible. Link budgets may force limits on the signal bandwidth (narrowband tones) or time duration (pulse trains).

This talk will introduce the SETI problem and describe the scope of efforts underway in the radio SETI community. Search strategies to maximize detection rate will be described, and narrowband SETI algorithms will be introduced. In recent years, SETI search capabilities have vastly improved with the use of interferometric arrays covering GHz-class bandwidths, commensal observing, and the use of racks of GPU-enhanced servers, significantly raising the potential for new discoveries.

  Date and Time




  • Date: 09 May 2024
  • Time: 06:00 PM to 08:00 PM
  • All times are (UTC-07:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
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  • Wozniak Lounge, University of California Berkeley
  • 1860 Le Roy Ave
  • Berkeley, California
  • United States
  • Building: Soda Hall
  • Room Number: 430

  • Contact Event Hosts
  • Parking: Metered street parking is available on Hearst Ave, Parking Lot: Upper Hearst Structure on 2701 Hearst Ave (5-min walk)

    Public Transportation: Downtown Berkeley BART Station (15-min walk)

  • Starts 23 April 2024 10:00 PM
  • Ends 09 May 2024 05:00 PM
  • All times are (UTC-07:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)
  • No Admission Charge


Kenneth Houston of Berkeley SETI Research Center


SETI Signal Processing



Kenneth Houston is a visiting scholar at the University of California Berkeley, contributing to the

Breakthrough Listen project at the Berkeley SETI Research Center. He retired from industry in

2017. Over his career, he has worked on a wide range of projects related to acoustics, RF,

communications and signal processing, and assumed various lead roles designing and

implementing DSP-based systems. His SETI work has involved search strategy and various

aspects of search system design, including detection algorithms for drifting narrow-band signals.

He holds the SB degree from Harvard University, the Master of Engineering degree in Computer

and Systems Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the Master of Engineering

Management degree from the Gordon Institute of Tufts University. He is a Life Member of the IEEE

and previously served for two years as the chairman of the Providence Section.


Event Agenda

1. Intro & Announcements- SPS & ComSoc East Bay Chapters        6.00-6.15 PM

2. Presentation - SETI Signal Processing                                       6.15-7.00 PM

3. Networking with Cocktail Food & Refreshments                          7.00-8.00 PM