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Allen Telescope Array Forced Offline – Public Help Is Needed

Artist rendering of ATA Antenna, Offset Gregor...

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Federal and state funding cutbacks for operations of U.C. Berkeley’s Hat Creek Radio Observatory (HCRO) force hibernation of Allen Telescope Array – In an April 22, 2011 email (PDF) to Allen Telescope Array stakeholder level donors, SETI Institute CEO Tom Pierson described in detail the recent decision by U.C. Berkeley, our partner in the Array, to reduce operations of the Hat Creek Radio Observatory (and thus the Allen Telescope Array) to a hibernation state effective this month. NSF University Radio Observatory funding to Berkeley for HCRO operations has been reduced to approximately one-tenth of its former level and, concurrently, growing State of California budget shortfalls have severely reduced the amount of state funds available for support of the HCRO site.

What next for the ATA? – The SETI Institute is working on numerous efforts to insure the Array comes back on line as soon as possible. Pierson’s email outlines potential work the ATA may be performing for the United States Air Force. Donor support is also needed to restart SETI observations on the Array. For the first time in history, SETI researchers are poised to use the ATA to examine the bounty of smaller planetary systems starting to be revealed by NASA’s Kepler Mission. We are also working with a consortium of big thinkers to develop exciting opportunities for the public to participate in the future of SETI, making the science much less vulnerable to government budget cycles. Watch for these future developments in the realm of our citizen science. In the interim, if you haven’t already done so, check out the early results of these efforts at setiQuest.org and setiQuest Explorer.

Public help is neededDonate now – Help return the ATA to operations and support the exciting SETI exploration of the Kepler planets over the next two years. You can read about our Kepler Worlds search and donate to the effort here.

More detail – You can read more details about the Allen Telescope Array hibernation and our plans to correct this situation here (PDF).

Update, April 27, 2011 – We have received questions about what the ATA hibernation means to the overall health of the SETI Institute.  Our Institute remains a robust and viable research organization.   Strong programs continue uninterrupted in our Center for Education and Public Outreach and our Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe.  In our Center for SETI Research, work continues on the development of citizen science programs to engage the public in SETI research; and Jill Tarter & her team are highly energized and motivated to find the solutions that will bring the ATA back on line.

The Allen Telescope Array

The Allen Telescope Array (ATA) is a „Large Number of Small Dishes“ (LNSD) array designed to be highly effective for “commensal” (simultaneous) surveys of conventional radio astronomy projects and SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) observations at centimeter wavelengths.

The idea for the ATA emerged in a series of workshops convened by the SETI Institute in 1997 to define the path for future development of technology and search strategies for SETI. The advance of computer and communications technology made it clear that LNSD arrays were more efficient and less expensive than traditional large antennas. The final report of the workshop, “SETI 2020,” recommended the construction of the One Hectare Telescope. (1HT) (A hectare is an area equivalent to a square 100 meters on a side.)

The SETI Institute sought private funds for the 1HT and in 2001 Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft) agreed to fund the technology development and first phase of construction (42 antennas). In October 2007 the array began commissioning tests and initial observations.

The array is now being used for radio astronomy observations of our galaxy and other galaxies, gamma ray bursts and transient radio sources, and SETI.

The ATA is a joint project of the SETI Institute and the Radio Astronomy Lab of the University of California Berkeley.

Real life or the progress of human development, is less important than the request for money. This is the truth:  Money Rules …-sem



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