Can Alien Life Survive Earthly Budget Cuts?

In what should be a boom time for alien-oriented astronomers, given NASA's recent discovery of an abundance of exoplanets, budget crises are holding back new projects that hold promise.

What's the Latest Development?

In December, the world's most advanced search for extraterrestrial intelligence, called SETI, resumed scanning the skies for alien signals. SETI currently utilizes an array of 42 radio telescopes, located at the Hat Creek observatory in California, built for a price tag of $25 million. The original plan, a much larger array of 350 antennas, still needs $55 million to get off the ground. But this remains a distant vision as the SETI group has struggled just keeping the doors open, needing about $100,000 a month in operating costs.

What's the Big Idea?

The 42 telescopes currently in use were built by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. And while it should be a boom time for alien-oriented astronomers given NASA's recent discovery of some 1,235 exoplanet candidates, budget cuts at the University of California, which operates the observatory at Hat Creek, have put the skids on even modest attempts to find E.T. One promising source of funds, however, is the Air Force which is willing to buy part of the Hat Creek operations to track satellites and space junk. Negotiations are underway.

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