Allen Telescope, Part 1

To search for signs of life in outer space, scientists have had to borrow time on huge radio telescopes such as the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico. How a new kind of telescope could change all that?

For 40 years, scientists have looked for evidence of intelligent life beyond Earth.┬áMost of these searches have used time borrowed here and there on large radio telescopes. Until now, there hasn’t been a large telescope dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence . . .

Dave DeBoer: And really to have a good chance of finding a signal, you need to look all the time, lots of different places, lots of different frequencies.

That’s Dave DeBoer — Project Manager for the SETI Institute’s new Allen Telescope Array. The telescope will be made up of hundreds of small, relatively inexpensive dishes about 6 meters — or 20 feet — wide.

Dave DeBoer: One thing that a lot of critics would say about SETI as a whole is that, well you’ve been around for 40 years, why haven’t you found anything? Well, I’ve been around for 36 years and I’ve been eating for those 36 years and fortunately for my waist line, I haven’t been eating continuously for 36 years , so the analogy kind of holds. SETI has been around for 40 years, but it certainly hasn’t been searching continuously for 40 years.

Some excerpts from interview with Dave DeBoer:

“… the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence needed a full time world class telescope, because to date, there’s only been sporadic searches. And really to have a good chance of finding a signal, you need to look all the time, lots of different places, lots of different frequencies.”

“… but the big prolem is just that there are not that many world class telescopes that you can use, so we have been borrowing small amounts of time on the world’s largest radio telescope — Arecibo [in Puerto Rico] — but that’s just a few weeks a year. So the ATA [Allen Telescope Array] being full time — using it to observe full time — is revolutionary for SETI. And we’re also developing detectors that will look at a wider swath of the frequencies.”

“One thing that a lot of critics would say about SETI as a whole is that, well you’ve been around for 40 yeras, why haven’t you found anything? Well, I’ve been around for 36 yeras and I’ve been eating for those 36 years and fortunately for my waist line, I haven’t been eating continuously for 36 years. I guess you’ll have to take it on faith since you can’t see me. But I’m not quite that large. So, the analogy kind of holds. SETI has been around for 40 years, but it certainly hasn’t been searching continuously for 40 years. And also, some meals are better than others. I would say the total amount of time that I’ve spent eating really fine cuisine is pretty short. And the amount of time spent observing highly quality SETI observing ahs been comparable to that. That’s actually an anology from my colleague Peter Bacchus at the SETI institute, but I think it’s a pretty good way to explain the state of the art of SETI. … The SETI Institute, for instance, has been doing this for quite a few years and if you look at the total amount of actual observing time, it’s about one year.”

What you have in your mind?