Feeds

Boffins pull plug on SETI alien-seeking antenna array

With no funds in coffers, ET searchers let go

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The SETI Institute has put its renowned Allen Telescope Array into hibernation because it doesn't have the money to run the giant cluster of radio dishes that search the heavens for extraterrestrial life.

The shuttering of the ATA was disclosed on Friday by scientists who said the project was unable to find the $5m infusion it needed to operate over the next two years. Franck Marchis – who works with SETI and the University of California at Berkeley, which oversees day-to-day operations at ATA – said activities at the Hat Creek Observatory, where the project is located, have already been suspended.

“All the equipments have been taken care of to make sure that they do not deteriorate over time,” Marchis wrote. “Unfortunately, three members of the Hat Creek Observatory staff have received a lay-off notice and one of them is moving to the CARMA observatory, a millimeter wave interferometer.

The suspension comes two months after the compilation of 1,235 new possible planets, observed by the Kepler space observatory, several of which scientists believe contain the water and light needed to support life. SETI scientists had hoped to use the ATA to monitor radio waves emanating from those extrasolar planets.

The ATA was originally envisioned to be 350 radio-wave antennas that worked in concert, scanning space for radio signals that might have been sent by intelligent life. It currently has 42 telescopes, which are located in northern California.

The hibernation comes as California and the US government face severe budget shortfalls. While funding for science has dried up across the board, money earmarked for SETI is a particularly hard sell because it doesn't provide the kind of immediate and predictable returns offered by other projects. SETI once got funding from NASA and later got funds from wealthy donors, including Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the ATA's namesake who covered about half of the $50 million needed to build the ATA.

The best chance of keeping the ATA running is to convince the US military to use it to track space debris that threaten satellites. More from Scientific American and The San Jose Mercury News are here and here. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.