The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute has had to disconnect it’s Allen Telescope Array due to deep federal and State of California budget cuts, and will put a hold on listening for signs of life in space. The institute, which is currently co-operated with the University of California Berkeley, has been researching extraterrestrial life in the universe since 1984.
According to the Associated Press, the shutdown of the SETI’s largest, most powerful telescopes comes at a very critical time in the institute’s work:
“There’s plenty of cosmic real estate that looks promising,” Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the institute, said Tuesday. “We’ve lost the instrument that’s best for zeroing in on these better targets.”
The shutdown came just as researchers were preparing to point the radio dishes at a batch of new planets. About 50 or 60 of those planets appear to be about the right distance from stars to have temperatures that could make them habitable, Shostak said.
In an open letter to its supporters (PDF), astronomers of the SETI outline the impact the forced-hibernation could have on not only the development of radio astronomy, but advancements in the tracking and moniotoring of space debris and the detection of new planets. The letter also makes a plea for solutions to the $1.5 million funding crisis:
“We must strive to find other sources of funding to supplement operations costs, and, very importantly, to support SETI science operations.”
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