Remember a while back when we wrote about the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence's (SETI) Allen Telescope Array (ATA) was shut down due to lack of funding? It seems the government wasn't keen on supporting the search for our interstellar neighbors, so SETI turned to you for help. Guess what guys we did it! The Allen Array is back in business!
Switched to off mode for months, the 42 telescopes of the ATA are focused on the skies again thanks to $232,725 in donations raised via the SETI Stars website. As of this writing an amazing 2,770 donors have opened their wallets.
The U.S. Air Force also chipped in "as part of the assessment of the instrument's utility for Space Situational Awareness." Seems like the USAF is very interested in space these days
The reality is, everyone is interested now that the possibility of alien life is made real again. Recent discoveries made by the Kepler space telescope have uncovered several exoplanet candidates. The most recent of which — Kepler-22b — is thought to be potentially habitable.
Kepler's discoveries bring an exciting focus to SETI's work. "For the first time, we can point our telescopes at stars, and know that those stars actually host planetary systems - including at least one that begins to approximate an Earth analog in the habitable zone around its host star. That's the type of world that might be home to a civilization capable of building radio transmitters..." notes Jill Tarter, the Director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute.
The search for E.T. looks like it will remain an odd marriage of government and private interests. The Kepler telescope responsible for finding the exoplanets is funded by the government; SETI exploration will still remain in the hands of private donations from the public.
So the next time you look at the stars and wonder what might be out there, remember you can be a part of finding out!