SETI observatory to come online

Air & Space Smithsonian magazine visits Hat Creek, California, where several dozen new radio telescopes will soon start listening for the sounds of ET calling. The Allen Telescope Array, named for major funder and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, will eventually consist of 350 telescopes dedicated to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). (I wrote about the project last year for UC Berkeley's Forefront magazine.) From Air & Space:

 Issues 2007 June-July Images Seti Main

In the Cascade Mountains of northern California, within sight of Mt. Shasta's snow-topped, 14,000-foot peak, lies the high valley of Hat Creek, where they say the fishing is good. People come here in the summer for a little R&R among the tall trees, away from modern technology and its discontents. Strange, then, that the valley should also be home to one of the most futuristic projects on the planet–the Allen Telescope Array, the first radio observatory built expressly for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. The late physicist Philip Morrison, one of the founding fathers of SETI, called the search "the archaeology of the future," an attempt to learn whether civilizations more advanced than ours exist. Some might call that possibility unlikely. Then again, so may be the long-term survival of humanity. And we still hold hope in that.

On this warm day in March, Jill Tarter is sitting at a desktop computer, studying sensitivity data from telescope 2H as it pans slowly across the sky. Outside, visible through the glass doors of this modest office/utility building, are 42 identical dish telescopes, each the size of an apple tree. Only 2H is moving. The orchard's pattern appears random, with dishes facing all directions. In fact, the arrangement is as random as a computer program can make it.


Previously on BB:
• Observing the SETI observatory Link