The most significant public project in the search for alien life is coming to an end. The project began in 1995 with a simple question at UC Berkeley, California: What if personal computers across the world could be linked together to create a makeshift supercomputer that could then help with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)? The huge amount of data collected by radio telescopes across the world needed powerful computers to sort through and find patterns that were interesting and warranted further observation. So in came SETI@Home, the idea of distributing the workload not among team members but among people across the world with computers who were willing to share some of the power for an alien hunt. Launched in 1999, the project used the idle time of volunteer computer users across the world to parse the signals collected by telescopes and select those that were possibly generated by extraterrestrial beings. Now comes the challenge of actually analyzing the data, which is what the lab plans to do by stopping the distribution of data for users to analyze.
Fun Fact: Each day, telescopes generate almost 100 terabytes of raw data that needs to be analyzed.