Earthlings' search for extraterrestrial life will soon be back on!
The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute announced this week it has raised enough money to bring the Allen Telescope Array, a group of 42 large dish antennas that scan the cosmos for radio signals, back online.
"We believe we will be back on the air in September," Tom Pierson, a co-founder of the SETI Institute, told the Los Angeles Times.
The telescope array, which SETI operates in a partnership with the Radio Astronomy Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, had not been working since April. A funding shortfall forced to university to put its Hat Creek Observatory, which houses the telescope array, into hibernation, meaning the facility was maintained by minimum staff and could not be used for observations.
SETI, through a program it dubbed SETIstars, sought the public's help in raising money to get the array back on line. The SETIstars website reports Wednesday that more than $206,000 has been raised, 103% of the group's goal. Almost 2,300 individual donations were made, according to the website.
"Thank You for Your Support to Resume the Search," the site says in big red letters.
The group says the $200,000 should be enough to bring the telescope array out of hibernation, and it will then look for other sources of money to continue operations.
Pierson said in a letter to prospective donors in April that SETI is working to get a contract with the U.S. Air Force to track space debris using the array.
In the same letter, he said SETI is seeking a total of $5 million in funding over the next two years to operate the telescope with a search concentrating on 1,235 possible planets, including some in habitable zones around other stars, found by NASA's Kepler mission.