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As we search for highly evolved civilizations far out in the universe, what do we expect their biological or technological signatures to look like? Would aliens ever let us know they exist? Would we even recognize civilizations far more advanced than our own?

Join SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute astronomers Dr. Jill Tarter and Dr. Franck Marchis, with Jet Propulsion Laboratory Europa Project Staff Scientist and Science Communications Lead Dr. Cynthia Phillips, for a far-reaching discussion of the possibilities of life beyond Earth. The talk will be moderated by Charles Lindsay, interdisciplinary artist and director of the SETI Institute’s artist in residence program.


In conjunction with the exhibition Space Program: Europa by Tom Sachs. More >>


Speaker Bios

Jill Tartar

Jill Tarter holds the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI Research at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California and serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for that institution. Tarter received her Bachelor of Engineering Physics Degree with Distinction from Cornell University and her Master’s Degree and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley. She has spent the majority of her professional career attempting to answer the old human question “Are we alone?” by searching for evidence of technological civilizations beyond Earth. She served as Project Scientist for NASA’s SETI program, the High Resolution Microwave Survey and has conducted numerous observational programs at radio observatories worldwide. She is a Fellow of the AAAS, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Explorers Club, she was named one of the Time 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2004, and one of the Time 25 in Space in 2012, received a TED prize in 2009, two public service awards from NASA, multiple awards for communicating science to the public, and has been honored as a woman in technology. She was the 2014 Jansky Lecturer. In 2015 she became President of the California Academy of Sciences. Asteroid 74824 Tarter (1999 TJ16) has been named in her honor. Since the termination of funding for NASA’s SETI program in 1993, she has served in a leadership role to design and build the Allen Telescope Array and to secure private funding to continue the exploratory science of SETI. Many people are now familiar with her work as portrayed by Jodie Foster in the movie Contact.

Franck Marchis

Dr. Franck Marchis is a Senior Researcher and Chair of the Exoplanet Group at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute since July 2007. Over the past 19 years, he has dedicated his research to the study of our solar system, specifically the search for asteroids with moons, using mainly ground-based telescopes equipped with adaptive optics. More recently he has been also involved in the definition of new generation of AOs for 8 -10 m class telescopes and future Extremely Large Telescopes. He has developed algorithms to process and enhance the quality of images, both astronomical and biological. His currently involved in the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey, which consists in imaging exoplanets using an extreme AO system for the Gemini South telescope. This new instrument is capable of imaging and recording spectra of young Jupiter-like exoplanets orbiting around nearby stars. Marchis is actively involved in the design of future instruments capable to image Earth-like exoplanets from the ground.


Cynthia Phillips

Dr. Cynthia Phillips is a planetary geologist whose favorite world in the solar system is Europa, an icy moon of Jupiter that likely possesses a large ocean of liquid water below its frozen surface. She was an affiliate of the Imaging Team for the Galileo Spacecraft during its mission to the Jupiter system from 1995 to 2003, and helped plan observations and interpret images of Europa. Dr. Phillips spent 15 years working at the SETI Institute, in part studying the possibilities for life on Europa. She now works at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, where she is a Project Staff Scientist and Science Communication Lead for a new mission that will return to Europa for the first time since Galileo. This new mission, in the early stages of development, will consist of a spacecraft that will orbit Jupiter with multiple close flybys of Europa. Dr. Phillips is also involved in studying Europa’s topography and surface properties, in preparation for a mission that might someday land on Europa’s surface. Such a mission would search for life in an environment that many scientists believe is our best chance for finding life in our own Solar System beyond the Earth.

Dr. Phillips received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Astronomy and Astrophysics, and Physics, from Harvard University (magna cum laude), and a Ph.D. in Planetary Science, with a minor in Geoscience, from the University of Arizona.

Charles Lindsay

Charles Lindsay is a multi-disciplinary artist interested in technology, eco-systems, semiotics, and humor. He creates immersive environments, sound installations, sculptures built from salvaged aerospace and bio-tech equipment, videos, and photographs. Educated as an exploration geologist Lindsay is the SETI Institute’s Artist In Residence Program Director, a Guggenheim Fellow, and the innovator behind OSA EARS – a project designed to deliver real-time sound and data from one of the world’s most bio-diverse rain forests to art museums worldwide through the ECOTONE, an amorphous environment currently in development. Lindsay’s work has been profiled by WIRED, Motherboard,,Viralnet, NPR and CNN International. His “FIELD STATION” installation is at MAssMoCA, through spring 2017. Works from his Mining the Moon series will be on view at New Museum Los Gatos (NUMU), as part of the inaugural SETI AIR biennial running from October 28 – March 5th, 2017.


Special thanks to the Space Program: Europa Host Committee: David and Carla Crane, Alan and Elizabeth Dye, Rekha Patel, Mark and Alison Pincus, Alan and Rebecca Ross, and Jeff Whipps and Susan Greenleaf.

Space Program: Europa is made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts.

United Airlines is the Official Airline of Space Program: Europa.

Additional Support for Space Program: Europa provided by:

Lead Images: Courtesy of speakers.