Federal and state funding cutbacks for operations of U.C. Berkeley’s Hat Creek Radio Observatory (HCRO) force hibernation of Allen Telescope Array – In an April 22, 2011 email (PDF) to Allen Telescope Array stakeholder level donors, SETI Institute CEO Tom Pierson described in detail the recent decision by U.C. Berkeley, our partner in the Array, to reduce operations of the Hat Creek Radio Observatory (and thus the Allen Telescope Array) to a hibernation state effective this month. NSF University Radio Observatory funding to Berkeley for HCRO operations has been reduced to approximately one-tenth of its former level and, concurrently, growing State of California budget shortfalls have severely reduced the amount of state funds available for support of the HCRO site.
What next for the ATA? – The SETI Institute is working on numerous efforts to insure the Array comes back on line as soon as possible. Pierson’s email outlines potential work the ATA may be performing for the United States Air Force. Donor support is also needed to restart SETI observations on the Array. For the first time in history, SETI researchers are poised to use the ATA to examine the bounty of smaller planetary systems starting to be revealed by NASA’s Kepler Mission. We are also working with a consortium of big thinkers to develop exciting opportunities for the public to participate in the future of SETI, making the science much less vulnerable to government budget cycles. Watch for these future developments in the realm of our citizen science. In the interim, if you haven’t already done so, check out the early results of these efforts at setiQuest.org and setiQuest Explorer.
Public help is needed – Donate now – Help return the ATA to operations and support the exciting SETI exploration of the Kepler planets over the next two years. You can read about our Kepler Worlds search and donate to the effort here.