Is the Truth Really Out There? We May Soon Find Out
Is the truth really out there? Or, is it just a bunch of wiener aliens? Regardless, X-Files fans (and just about anyone else) will be interested in a recently launched California project, which actively searches outer space for signs of intelligence.
The search, led by astronomer Dr. J. R. Forster, officially began on Thursday with the activation of a radio telescope array. The project, funded by the University of California, Berkeley, is now probing the universe with 42 individual radio dishes collectively referred to as the Allen Telescope Array (ATA). Eventually, Forster and his team hope that 42 balloons to an astronomical 350.
Funny Fact: Wonder where the name "Allen" comes from? It's actually the project's primary investor Paul Allen, who some of you may know as co-founder of Microsoft and a very rich man, indeed. (Source: bbc.co.uk)
Also on board with the project is the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute. According to Seth Shostak, a member of that team, "The ATA's technical capabilities exponentially increase our ability to search for intelligent signals, and may lead to the discovery of thinking beings elsewhere in the universe." (Source: cbc.ca)
It's not just about aliens, however. Radio telescopes can examine low-frequency electromagnetic radiation from outer space to reveal the secrets behind stars, supernovas, black holes, and other space phenomena.
Exciting stuff. The Allen Array is in fact the first of its kind with this purpose in mind. However, the dishes shouldn't be confused with those massive pieces of hardware found in "Contact", featuring one Jodie Foster. Instead, the ATA is made up of much smaller dishes, only about six meters in diameter. The dishes are mass-produced, and in this way can perform the abilities of the much larger, and presumably more expensive alternative.
Still, the project is by no means cheap. Although $25 million has already been donated, another $50 million is required to complete the Array.
That's a lot of green in the tiny hopes of finding, well, tiny green men.
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