Breakthrough Listen 2019

This page provides information about the Breakthrough Listen / SETI Institute RF Hackathon held May 13 – 17, 2019


Breakthrough Listen, UC Berkeley SETI Research Center, and the SETI Institute invite applications from RF professionals, machine learning experts, and the GNU Radio open source community to participate in a three-day community gathering & technical hackathon at the Allen Telescope Array (ATA).


The ATA is 42-dish facility spread over 1.2 square kilometers, located in a remote part of Northern California. This installation is primarily engaged in scientific programs of radio astronomy and answering one of the biggest questions in science: Are we alone in the Universe?

Housing and meals will be provided on-site at no charge. Participants are responsible for their own travel to the observatory, which is situated a 2.5 – 5 hour drive from major airports such as RNO, SMF, and SFO.

Event Address: Hat Creek Radio Observatory, Hat Creek, CA 96040


The goal of this hackathon is to organize and facilitate collaborative research & development within the scientific community on topics of interest, which include:

* Detection and characterization of radio signals, including deep learning approaches.
* Data capture, management, and quality assessment for radio systems.
* RF front-end and antenna status and health management & assessment.
* GNU Radio-based tools for real-time and offline processing at the ATA and other radio astronomy facilities.
* Tools & standards development for open source signal data formats (e.g., SigMF), and transitioning to those formats from existing bespoke formats.
* Enabling citizen science and collaboration with the broader open source community.

In addition, participants will be able to carry out their own hands-on experiments and data captures using the ATA by using the onsite correlator-beamformer or connecting their own software radios directly to the array.


A principal goal of the hackathon is to provide a dedicated environment for collaboration and exchange of ideas that will enable continued & future endeavors long after the event. Towards that goal, SETI staff planning to participate include:

* Andrew Siemion, Director, Berkeley SETI Research Center, and Bernard M. Oliver Chair of SETI Research, SETI Institute
* Jon Richards, Hat Creek SETI Operations Manager, SETI Institute
* Steve Croft, Staff scientist, Berkeley SETI
* Billy Barott, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Embry-Riddle
* Yunfan (Gerry) Zhang, Researcher, Berkeley SETI

Other participants include:
* Ben Hilburn, Director of Engineering, DeepSig, and President of the GNU Radio Project
* Tim O’Shea, co-founder & CTO, DeepSig, and Research Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech
* Nathan West, Principal Engineer, DeepSig, and Creator & Maintainer, libsigmf


Dates are in 2019.

Monday May 13:
Evening – Arrive at Hat Creek Radio Observatory. Welcome barbecue.

Tuesday May 14:
Morning – Tour of the antennas, control room, correlator / beamformer / server room. Introductory talks on the array, radio astronomy, and SETI basics.
Afternoon – Brainstorming. Split into teams.

Wednesday May 15 & Thursday May 16: Hands-on hackathon.

Thursday May 16 evening / Friday May 17 morning: Participants depart. Optional hike in nearby Lassen National Park.

Participants are expected to abide by the code of conduct at