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Distinguished Berkeley astronomer to present public talk

Jim Kloeppel, Physical Sciences Editor
(217) 244-1073;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- William J. Welch, a professor of electrical engineering and of astronomy at the University of California at Berkeley, will present the fifth talk in the department of astronomy’s Icko Iben Jr. Distinguished Lectureship at 4 p.m. Oct. 28 in Foellinger Auditorium, 709 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana. The talk, "The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence," is free and open to the public.

"Jack Welch is an outstanding leader in radio astronomy," said Lewis Snyder, the chair of the astronomy department. "His talk on the possible existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe should be of interest to faculty, students and the general public."

Welch was instrumental in establishing the Berkeley-Illinois-Maryland Association (BIMA) array of 10 millimeter-wave radio telescopes near Hat Creek, Calif., Snyder said. "His pioneering development of millimeter-wave interferometry resulted in an instrument that can form high-resolution images of regions of star formation, and can detect the presence of biologically important molecules in interstellar space."

Each year the Iben lectureship brings a noted astronomer to campus to highlight some of the latest developments in astronomy, Snyder said. In addition to giving a public lecture, the invited speaker also will give a technical colloquium and meet informally with faculty members and students.

One hundred planets have been discovered circling stars other than the sun, lending additional credibility to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, Snyder said. "In his public talk, Welch will discuss ongoing attempts at the SETI Institute to search for and identify signals emitted by alien intelligence, and a bold new initiative called the Allen Telescope Array."

Named for Paul G. Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft who is providing $11.5 million for its development, the Allen Telescope Array is a joint project of the SETI Institute and UC-Berkeley. The array will consist of 350 antennas, each having a diameter of 20 feet.

When completed in 2005, the Allen Telescope Array will be among the world’s largest observing instruments. Because of its novel construction, the array will be used for cutting-edge radio astronomy research as well as searches for technological evidence of complex life on other planets.

Founded in 1984, the SETI Institute is a private, nonprofit organization that conducts the world’s most comprehensive work in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.