I recently learned about SETI and SETI @ home home. It's basically allows volunteers donate spare computer time to analyze data from remote server.

  1. What if the participants are less? Will it ignore considerable amount of data? To elaborate this question, let's say we have 100K users now signed up for SETI@home program. And the data from remote reaches 100K users and analyzed also there are some distributed systems in SETI workspace processing the information. So the information required to process is huge I assume. If 90K users stopped contributing to SETI are we missing 90K data? Or SETI workspace will be ramped up to handle the data volume. Basically will there be a scenario where the data needing processing is greater than the available systems? My concern is we do not want to miss even a millisecond of data.
  2. What would be the fallback to it? If the client (SETI@home) missed a signal it suppose to not. To elaborate this question, this is a follow up for question #1. Worst case scenario we are running out of systems are we queuing the data for processing after systems available?
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Space Exploration SX ! Can you edit you question and clarify what you mean by 'participants are less' ? Do you mean if there is less volunteer computing power than data ? $\endgroup$ Oct 4, 2019 at 21:17
  • $\begingroup$ @astronapper edited the question $\endgroup$ Oct 5, 2019 at 1:51

1 Answer 1


SETI@home uses data collected from other projects and searches it for patterns. Pattern searching can go infinity deep as you look for increasing combinations of modulation bandwidth so for a reasonable volume of data you could search it effectively forever for increasingly more improbable patterns at less probable frequencies.

At least when the initial project started there was an intended scope of data. Arecibo is fixed to the surface of the earth and therefore sweeps the sky through earths rotation and procession, and with hardware only capturing a finite amount of the spectrum. Original scope was three full sweeps of the observable sky. That was completed and since then data from other sources has been fed into the system to be searched with varying amounts of pre processing to screen terrestrial sources, candidate star systems and frequencies.

If there are more users/processing power than less probable parts of the sky get searched, and for less likely signal types.

Even with all the processing power on earth it would be not possible to fully search the data, but even with quite modest resources it is possible to check that no nearby stars are trying to talk to us in obvious ways.


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