THE SEARCH for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has taken a step backwards with the closure of the SETI Institute's Allen Telescope Array.
SETI's CEO, Tom Pierson said that the 42 radio dishes that scan the heavens for signs of alien life have been shut down due to a lack of government support.
Scientists and astronomers were saddened by the news, saying that the timing couldn't be worse, since the Kepler telescope had recently identified 1,235 possible new planets, many of which could be similar to Earth in size and habitability, according to the Mercury News.
Funding for the SETI project has always been tight, with NASA funding being withdrawn in 1994 after Congress voted that it was not worth the money. Since then Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has donated money, along with others. The institute secured the $50 million needed to build the initial array but now the radio dishes will stand idle, letting potentially monumental discoveries slip by.
The array will remain in place near Mount Lassen in the US, but it will be in a non-functioning state until the institute secures additional funding. SETI said that if everyone in the US gave an additional three cents on their tax forms it would be able to find out if there is life amongst the stars. µ