Paul Allen’s famous collection of extraterrestrial life-seeking radio dishes is shutting down due to a steep drop in government funding.
Astronomers at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. announced the shutdown last week, saying they had run out of money for the daily operation of the Allen Telescope Array.
Built largely from a $30 million donation from Microsoft co-founder Allen, the array is comprised of 42 radio dishes set in a remote California desert. The dishes have scanned deep space for signals of alien civilization since 2007, The Associated Press reported.
“They’re like souped-up, old-style TV dishes that, gathered together using state-of-the-art electronics and computing, create a very powerful and flexible radio telescope,” Allen told the P-I in 2003.
“SETI is the long shot of long shots, but we can also use this for regular radio astronomy.”
Last week, SETI chief executive Tom Pierson emailed (PDF) donors with the bad news. He called the array “the world’s best instrument to search for possible signals from the thousands of planets being identified by NASA’s Kepler Mission.”
But it was going into “hibernation.”
“Unfortunately, today’s government budgetary environment is very difficult, and new solutions must be found,” Pierson wrote.
“Hibernation means that, starting this week, the equipment is unavailable for normal observations and is being maintained in a safe state by a significantly reduced staff.”
Read the AP story here: Shrinking budgets force shutdown of alien search.