Since the dawn of human history, members of society have created groups with a focused interest in topics ranging from the mundane to the grandiose. One of the more grandiose groups to form in the last hundred years is SETI, an organization dedicated to the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Participants in this group aspire to intercept signals sent into the universe by intelligent life on other planets.
As humans invented radio and television as mass communication mediums capable of reaching nearly every individual on the globe, it stood to reason that similar methods were being employed on other planets to keep their inhabitants apprised of whatever is necessary. Be it entertainment, important news on impending natural phenomena, or signals sent out in an attempt to communicate with distant planets, SETI members hope to receive these transmissions and confirm their belief in life on other planets.
Towards this end, it was necessary to be able to receive such signals. Thus, the Arecibo Observatory was built in Puerto Rico in 1963. This radio telescope is the largest of its kind ever built on Earth. It measures just over 1,000 feet across if one follows the curve of the dish itself, otherwise, it is 848.7 feet from edge to edge. Due to its large size, it is capable of performing its three main functions better than any other device on the planet.
The three primary functions of the telescope are to collect radar astronomy, radio astronomy, and aeronomy disturbances received from objects in the solar system. In theory, disturbances large enough to be measured and recorded could be sent to us by other intelligent life. After the telescope receives data, it is collected for analysis.
The amount of data to be analyzed daily is hard to comprehend, which led to the creation of SETI@home, which allows for distributed computing to do a lot of the analysis work, saving the researchers from having to pay for computer power. With over 618 teraflops of power from over 290,000 linked computers, SETI can boast of having the sixth most powerful computer in the world.