Project Ideas

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Here is a list of potential setiQuest projects ideas. Pick one that interests you and get to work. We welcome your ideas on more projects, so feel free to add your own. Please join the forum discussion[1] and inject your ideas into the mix.


Documentation help

The SonATA code uses Doxygen for documentation purposes. We need better documentation. Here are some ways to help:

Telescope simulator

Development of a telescope simulator. SonATA controls and monitors the ATA telescope solely through a TCP socket, passing back and forth ASCII commands. It would be great if a group of programmers could develop a program to mimic the real operation of the telescope. The seeker could connect up to it and not know the difference between a real system and the simulator. I would bet this is something that a small group would love to take on. If we had this tool everyone could have their own personal telescope system for open SonATA software development.

Code review

There are a lot of people that would find no greater joy than in picking out our mistakes and helping us improve the overall quality of the code.

ATA status stream

Telescope and SonATA status stream. One of the best things we could do to publicize the project and the SETI Institute in general is to publish to the world exactly what we are observing. If we could make this information real-time and public, then people could use this stream of information to create ATA/SETI websites and services.

Data conduit

Send SonATA UDP packets to AWS for real-time cloud processing and archiving.

Cloud SonATA

Make SonATA run on and take advantage of services offered by AWS. SonATA has been designed to run on a number of different processors in a combination series/parallel arrangement. As a result of our collaboration with AWS, we have access to a large number of machine instances. How can we take advantage of these instances to speed up the search.


  1. This would require you to understand SonATA software architecture, and propose changes to allow it to run on a much larger number of instances.

Difficulty level: High.

Mentor: Jon Richards

Google Sky

Create a browser widget that will use Google Sky to display ATA observation targets. See Google Sky Project for a more complete description and Project discussion on the forum to join the discussion

RFI periodicity tracking

Create an environment to keep track of those sources of RFI that occur at specific predictable times. The idea is so that specific searches can be scheduled around interfering signals. A major task of the signal detection software is identifying signals that can be traced to sources other than Extra-Terrestrial intelligence. Many such signals are caused by events that have fixed periodicity.

We would like someone to develop software that can collect as much information as they can about these interfering signals, and create a dashboard that displays to the user, possible interfering signals, depending on the location and time of day.

At the very least, these can be used to refine search. If the signals have periodicity, then this software can also be used while scheduling future observations.

Particular challenges:

  1. Find sources of interfering signals
  2. Write a web-services infrastructure to collect these signals
  3. Create a dashboard to display them
  4. Make the software extensible enough so that RFI identified in the future can be easily integrated

Difficulty level: High

Mentor: Jon Richards or some other member of SonATA software team.

Idle activities

Activities when real-time search is not taking place. Real-time searches take place only part of the time. We want to create an environment for people to continue interacting with us even when there is no active search in progress.

The ATA is a shared resource - shared between SETI Institute and The University of California at Berkeley. There are times when commensal observing takes place, and there are other times when it is possible for only one of the two organizations to collect relevant data. The net is that we can't be looking for ETI 24x7; there will be breaks in real-time data flow.

What does a visitor to the website do, during these breaks? We have ideas, but we would love to hear what you think, and then implement those ideas.

Specific challenges:

  1. The bigger part of this project is to define what to do,
  2. Implementing ideas may require you to build web services to get data from many places

Difficulty level: Varying - depending on the idea.

Mentor: Avinash Agrawal

tclreadline eradication

tclreadline9.9.0 which is part of the SonATA release was modified to capture control-C and to allow command completion and navigating through previous commands. The desire is to keep these features but use a current version of tclreadline.

3D antenna model

We have a 3D model data files for an antenna. It would be great if someone could convert this into a form usable from OpenGL and provide a Java/OpenGL program that would point the antenna (Azimuth, Elevation) via some user input, on the computer screen. Please let jrseti know if you are interested and he'll provide more information.

We have 3d model data files of the antenna. The model contains 30K+ polygons. It would be great if someone could decimate the model to maybe a few thousand or less polygons, while retaining the appearance at an acceptable visual quality. Also, it would be useful to have the model decimated to < 100 polygons for displays on computers with not much processing power (smart phones), or for use in applications where we wish to show a more cartoony version of the antennas. Please let jrseti know if you are interested and he'll provide more information.

See Virtual 3D Antenna Array Visualization Toolkit Project

setiQuest Data auto collect

Automate setiQuest Data collection observations. Presently setiQuest Data observations require substantial human intervention and control of 3 computers at once; one to set the beamformer pointing on target and emit data to the network, a second computer to capture beamformer data and break it into ~16 streams each 8 MHz wide and a third to capture the 8 MHz to disk. Presently, these computers are all controlled by hand with shell scripts (prototype system). Now that we have the observing protocol down, these programs should be rewritten in a network-aware language and platform so that the entire process can be run from a single computer. At present, meta-data files containing star pointing, frequency, bandwidth, time, etc. are written by hand in vi and stored with the data files. Ephemeris information is hand-copied to the same place. This might be a good project for a student sw engineer. -Gerry

Gauss-Markov mode filtering

Research and determine how useful the Gauss-Markov mode filtering technique is for SETI signal detection. Prototype and test with setiQuest Data. Implement the algorithm in SonATA. For more information see

See also


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