Friday, June 12, 2009

Milestone in Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI)

Alan Boyle writes on the start of science operations at the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) in California. This facility, still only partially completed, vastly expands the capabilities of searching for intelligent extraterrestrial signals, if they are there.
The Allen Telescope Array was conceived more than eight years ago, and it's been two years since the system's switches were flipped on in a remote valley near Mount Shasta in Northern California. Scientists have been tinkering with the equipment and testing the software since then. Finally, on May 28, astronomers kicked off regular rounds of SETI surveys, seven hours a day, roughly four to five times a week, according to Peter Backus, the SETI Institute's manager of observing programs.

Backus said the significance of the milestone sank in a couple of days later, when he and other members of the research team were sitting around a table for a planning meeting.

"We just looked at each other and said, 'Hey, we're actually observing again!' It was a great feeling for the whole gang," he told me.

Congratulations to the SETI team! With the ATA in operation, the Hubble Telescope upgraded, the launch of the Kepler, Herschel and Plank telescopes (and more advances to come), what wondrous discoveries await us?

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