When would be the worst possible time for SETI‘s best extraterrestrial signal-hunting telescope to be switched off?
And guess what? Due to lack of funding, right this moment, SETI’s Allen Telescope Array (ATA) has been temporarily mothballed.
At a time when NASA’s Kepler and other exoplanet-hunting telescopes are detecting hundreds of confirmed and candidate alien worlds orbiting other stars, wouldn’t it be nice to point the ATA at some of these worlds — particularly the ones that have an Earth-like, habitable flavor? If our intelligent extraterrestrial neighbors are out there, “listening” to these worlds with radio telescopes would be a good plan.
Through a combination of budget cutbacks by the state of California and the National Science Foundation, to keep the ATA running became an impossible task. SETI isn’t a government organization, so bad news aliens, there’s no bail-out plan to help us contact you.
Now, through a Silicon Valley initiative called SETIStars, set up to generate funds for what I consider to be one of mankind’s noblest endeavors, we can all help SETI get back to doing what it does best: search for ET’s signal. The target is to raise $200,000.
From the SETIStars website:
The search for extraterrestrial intelligence isn’t a “nice, but unimportant” exercise, it’s a program that hopes to define mankind’s place in the Universe. Is intelligent life on Earth unique? Or is the galaxy throbbing with transmissions just waiting for the correct SETI instrument to be listening on the right frequency?
So long as the ATA remains offline, the longer we’ll have to wait for that civilization-defining question to be answered.