Bad news for those of you hoping to find extraterrestrial life: The SETI Institute have been forced to temporarily shut down Allen Telescope Array (ATA) operations due to a lack of funding.
The ATA in Northern Califonia, managed by both the SETI and the University of California, Bekeley, is a series of 42 small dishes used for researching radio astronomy and even alien life forms. More recently, it has been used to detect space debris. Money to create and maintain the structure had originally come from donations to the SETI's CEO Paul Allen. It was also funded by the State and the National Science Foundation (NSF), so the university used it for observations and writing academic papers, a few of which were published.
Sadly, due to the funding from the State and the NSF being cut considerably, UC Berkeley and SETI made a reluctant decision to put the ATA in hibernation--though it will still be routinely maintained. Of course, this also means layoffs for staff at the Hat Creek site.
However, the potentially good news is that if the Air Force Space Command might consider using the ATA for "space surveillance"--snooping and tracking objects in space. Plus, it is not a permanent hiatus. When the California economy picks up and more donations pour thorugh, the telescope ensemble could get back on its feet, or at least help examine NASA's finds on the Kepler Mission. When that is, though, is anyone's guess. It's also pretty good if you are a lifeform preferring to stay elusive.
It's a shame a telescope site that has contributed a lot to astrophysic findings has had to face hibernation, but at least it is not permanent. Hopefully no more great telescopes in the country, or in even other parts of the world where the economy might be dwindling, will have to face the same as the ATA.
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