Feeds

Shuttered SETI reboots ET pursuit

Thanks to Jodie Foster

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The search for intelligent life somewhere other than among non-governmental homo sapiens has been given a reprieve. Thanks to private donations, the SETI Institute will soon resume scanning the skies for extraterrestrial signals.

"We are absolutely thrilled that thousands of people from all over the world stepped forward to declare their support for SETI science just when help was needed the most," the Institute notes on its website, saying that their sky-scouring will begin again next month.

The Institute's search for coherent radio signals that might indicate intelligent alien life, which was being conducted at the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) in Northern California's Hat Creek Valley, had to be suspended this April because of – what else? – budget cuts.

SETI's Allen Telescope Array

SETI's Allen Telescope Array – back in action this September

The Institute didn't buckle under, however. Instead, it launched a fundraising campaign that it dubbed SETIstars, with a goal of raising $200,000 to restart the ATA project.

As of this Monday morning, SETIstars had received $222,595 from over 2,000 donors, including science-fiction author Larry Niven (Ringworld), Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders, and actress Jodie Foster, who played an alien-discovering scientist in the 1997's Contact.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, Anders wrote about the shutdown: "It is absolutely irresponsible of the human race not to be searching for evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence."

Foster also weighed in: "The Allen Telescope Array could turn science fiction into science fact, but only if it is actively searching the skies." And speaking of big-name supporters, the 42-dish ATA itself was originally funded by a pair of gifts from Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen.

Although the restarting of the Institute's search is cause for all space-watchers to celebrate, there is a dark lining to this celestial cloud. When the Institute went dark in April, SETI Institute astronomer Jill Tarter told the San Francisco Chronicle that the search was costing the Institute – that is, its funders – $2.5m per year; $1.5m to light up the ATA, and $1m for the search effort.

Needless to say, $222,595 won't go very far towards doing much more than getting the seach off the mat – and briefly, at that. The ATA has other funders – the cash-strapped University of California is its primary other user, and SETI's senior astronomer Seth Shostak told a local newspaper that the US Air Force is likely to pick up the rest of the tab.

But with the budget of the US Deparment of Defense currently a prime target of ongoing budget battles, even the support of as powerful a friend as the Air Force may not be enough to allow the ATA to keep scanning the skies for intelligent life.

So the Institute is keeping SETIstars going, despite having surpassed its goal. "It's not too late to contribute," SETI's website notes. Should you feel generous, check our the Institute's donation page. ®

Bootnote

Not every sky-watcher is of the opinion that contacting an alien race is such a good idea. One of the brightest, Stephen Hawking, told the Times of London: "If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn't turn out very well for the Native Americans."

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.