Via Alan Boyle’s Cosmic Log blog, I am very pleased to find out that the mothballed SETI telescope array will soon be operating again!
As I reported here a few of months ago, the SETI Allen Telescope Array had to be shut down due to a lack of funds. It costs roughly $2.5M per year to keep it running, and the funding agencies were pulling back. The folks at SETI decided to create a public fund drive called SETIstars, hoping to raise the $200,000 needed to kickstart the project again.
As of a few days ago, that goal was reached! I was happy to see that people such as Jodie Foster (who played SETI astronomer Ellie Arroway in the movie “Contact”) and science fiction author Larry Niven were among people who had contributed, as well as Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders.
The $200k donated is enough to get things started again, but not enough to continue operations, so it looks like there will be more fund (and awareness) raising soon by SETI. I think this is a pretty interesting endeavor; SETI has long been a political and scientific target, but they are doing good work in a variety of fields of astronomy and biology (for example, I recently wrote about a new meteor shower discovered that indicates there’s a previously-unknown near-Earth comet out there – this was funded in part by SETI). I don’t know how sustainable direct public funding of scientific projects can be, but SETI is making a pretty good stab at it. I’ll be very curious to see how this pans out.