Three times Jill Tarter thought we had made contact with extraterrestrial life.

IN 1977, they intercepted a signal at Ohio State that prompted hundreds of hours to try to determine whether it was real. It was never reacquired, leaving open the possibility that it was a valid extraterrestrial signal or another technology.

IN FRANCE IN 1980, she and her team had to wait for a suspicious source to pass over their telescope, and Tarter was afraid to go to sleep. "I had to stay up for three days, afraid my French colleagues were going to call up Le Monde," she said.

IN WEST VIRGINIA while observing with a radio telescope, she went so far as to alert colleagues in California of an auspicious signal -- and then forgot to call back when she discovered it was a satellite. None of them was E.T. calling.