by Bill Chappell
The SETI Institute's mothballed Allen Telescope Array — which scans the universe for signs of alien life — will soon be up and running again, thanks to more than $200,000 in donations that came from people including actress Jodie Foster and former astronaut Bill Anders.
The telescope array has been shut down since late April, when the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute said it could no longer afford to keep the telescopes operational.
SETI now confirms that it plans to resume operations in the middle of September. A note on the group's website, thanked donors, saying "We are absolutely thrilled that thousands of people from all over the world stepped forward to declare their support for SETI science just when help was needed the most."
The timing of the shutdown particularly frustrated researchers because just months earlier, on Feb. 1, NASA's Kepler mission announced 1,235 exoplanet candidates.
As a guest on Science Friday in April, Center for SETI Research director Jill Tarter told Ira Flatow, "These Kepler worlds are what we were planning to spend the next two years exploring. It's marvelous to finally have this incredible bounty of worlds out there — planetary worlds that we actually know about.
Knowing the location of the planets and their stars, Tarter said, would take some guesswork out of the equation.
"And actually, 54 of those are thought to be at just the right distance from their star that they might have liquid water on the surface. So even among the 1,235, there are 54 with higher priority," she said.
But donations are still being sought, and accepted, to keep the array's 42 radio telescopes up and running.Spotted here