An assortment of 42 radio telescopes seeking signs of intelligent life in the universe has received enough funding by private donors to keep the effort going.
The array was a joint project between the SETI Institute and the UC Berkeley Astronomy Laboratory, but earlier this year was shut down due to the loss of National Science Foundation grants and state budget cuts.
Senior SETI Institute astronomer Seth Shostak said, “But people still think this very fundamental question – is there somebody out there as intelligent or more so than us? – is important and worth doing…”
The telescopes will be turned on again come September, they are recalibrated and will operate 24 hours a day for the rest of the year as more funds are sought.
The array costs $2.5 million a year to operate with a staff of 10 people. The SETI Institute has an $18 million budget and 140 employees. The funding comes from donors, NASA and the National Science Foundation.
SETI Institute CEO Tom Pierson told supporters it is his objective to raise $5 million so that the radio dishes may be pointed at 1,235 new so-called “exoplanets” which were announced in February by NASA’s Kepler mission.
The telescopes are not only used to search for E.T.s, but also to contribute to the research of black holes, pulsars and magnetic fields in the Milky Way.
Last June the SETI website read:
At the SETI Institute, we’ve made a name for ourselves exploring space. But it’s our community here on Earth — passionate, science-minded and creative — that truly defines us. That’s why we’re launching SETIstars, an initiative to connect us more closely than ever with the constellation of visionaries and supporters that make our work possible.
Priority one is getting the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) back online as soon as possible and once again fixing our gaze on the stars.
The ATA is a powerful field of linked radio telescopes that enable countless avenues of astronomical study, chief among them the search for evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations and insight into the nature of our cosmic origins. In the wake of a recent funding shortfall, however, this invaluable tool lies dormant and our vision of the universe around us has gone dark. With your help, we can change that.