2018 SARA Conference Keynote Speaker: Dr. Ron Maddalena

"Breakthrough Listen’s Role in the Quest for Extraterrestrials"

Breakthrough Listen is by far the most ambitious search ever taken for radio signals from extraterrestrial civilizations.  Observations on the Green Bank Telescope started in January 2016 and uses 20% of the observing time on the GBT, as well as time on other telescopes.  The project, which will examine 1 million stars over 10 years, has the same sensitivity in 1 day of observing as previous SETI surveys acquired in a full year.  This paper examines how the Breakthrough Listen survey fits in with historical SETI searches, what Breakthrough might tell us about the terms in the Drake equation, as well as how the project fits in with other, on-going SETI activities.

Dr. Ron Maddalena has been a member of the Science Operations group in Green Bank for 33 years. The overall objective of Science Operations is to provide the research community an easy-to-use, uniform set of services for all the observatory’s instruments. This includes helping observers use the GBT as well as help the staff develop the hardware, the tools, and the documentation that facilitate research efforts.
Ron received his B.A. (1980) and Ph.D. (1985) from Columbia University and has worked for the observatory ever since. He supported scientist who used the 140-ft telescope until 1996. In particular, during that time, he was the project manager and scientist for the UniPOPS data analysis system. Since 1996 he has been supporting various GBT efforts. For example, he led the design efforts for the Holography system that successfully set the GBT surface. He has been the project manager, designer, and developer of the CLEO software system that staff and observers use when they interact with all aspects of the GBT hardware. He was Head of Science Operations for the Green Bank Telescope from 2006-2009.  He continues to develop the meteorological models and algorithms that create the weather forecasts that are the basis of the GBT's Dynamical Scheduling System.  In 2013, the observatory awarded Ron the “Distinguished Performance Award” for his expertise and dedication to the observatory’s mission.  Due to his years of experience, he is the observatory’s project scientist for the Breakthrough Listen project, the most ambitious of SETI project.
Throughout his career with the NRAO, Ron also has been very active in the various educational and outreach activities conducted in Green Bank.  Ron's research interests include molecular clouds, interstellar medium, and structure of spiral galaxies, high-redshift molecular emission galaxies, single-dish calibration algorithms, and radio-frequency weather forecasting.   In one fashion or another, he has been involved with almost every SETI observations conducted in Green Bank over the last 30 years.