E.T. Donations Reboots SETI To Continue Search

By: Pat Prescott
Published: Aug 11, 2021

The search for E.T. has been revived after fans sent $200,000 in donations to get the SETI program back on track. The project had to be shutdown back in April due to budget problems, but that has all changed. The program uses scientific methods to search for intelligent life on other planets.

For example, electromagnetic radiation is monitored for signs of transmissions from civilizations on other worlds. The United States government contributed to early SETI projects, but recent work has been primarily funded by private sources. The program has been around for decades.

It stepped in to help keep the search for alien radio signals active after NASA cut off funding for the quest in 1993. It’s not the only organization doing SETI, but it’s the leader in the field. The Allen Telescope Array, or ATA, was launched with $50 million in contributions from software billionaire Paul Allen and others, and if the array ever takes in 350 linked antennas, as it’s designed to do, it would rank among the world’s premier radio-telescope facilities.

Many radio frequencies penetrate our atmosphere quite well, and this led to radio telescopes that investigate the cosmos using large radio antennas. Furthermore, the Earth emits considerable electromagnetic radiation as a byproduct of communications such as television and radio. These signals would be easy to recognize as artificial due to their repetitive nature and narrow bandwidths.

If this is typical, one way of discovering an extraterrestrial civilization might be to detect non-natural radio emissions from a location outside our Solar System.

Among the contributors are Jodie Foster, the actress who played a SETI researcher in the movie “Contact”; science-fiction writer Larry Niven, creator of the “Ringworld” series of novels; and Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders, who flew around the moon in 1968.

“It is absolutely irresponsible of the human race not to be searching for evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence,” Anders wrote in a note accompanying his contribution. The institute’s chief executive officer, Tom Pierson said the institute’s managers and scientists were drawing up a plan that would restart science operations in September. “We think we’re going to come out of hibernation and be solid for the next five months or so, and during those five months we’re going to take care of calendar year 2013 and put that under our belt,” he said.

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