SETI group deploys prototype telescope
An artist's rendering of the SETI Institute's planned array of satellite dishes designed to search for extraterrestrial communications
LAFAYETTE, California (CNN) -- An organization searching for
signs of advanced alien life unveiled a prototype this week
of what could become one of the world's largest radio
The SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute
positioned seven 12-foot dishes near Berkeley, California.
The institute plans to complete a radar array that contains
1,000 satellite dishes or more.
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Scientists hope the gigantic field of dishes can tune in to
alien civilizations. By coordinating the reception of the
receivers, SETI researchers can greatly amplify their
listening capability, said Jill Tartar, director of SETI
research at the institute.
"This prototype launches the next generation of SETI research
in a bold way," she said in a statement. Tarter, the model
for the E.T. intelligence searcher played by Jodi Foster in
the movie "Contact," said her quest goes much further back
than the 1997 blockbuster.
"I didn't wake up last week and start asking, are we alone?
Its a question that people have looked up in the sky and have
wondered about as long as we've had recorded history," she
SETI has already positioned seven of the dishes in a prototype array near Berkeley, California
SETI and the University of California-Berkeley will use the
prototype array as a workshop to develop the final radio
telescope, which will cover 2.5 acres (1 hectare) at the Hat
Creek Observatory, located about 290 miles (470 km) northeast
of San Francisco.
"We want to build, for the first time, an instrument that
takes hundreds of commercial satellite dishes, modified
commercial satellite dishes, to build one of the largest
radio telescopes in the world," said UC Berkeley radio
astronomer Leo Blitz.
Scientists will use the prototype to find signal processing
solutions that deal with interference, especially from
telecommunications satellites. The small dish field will also
help researchers calibrate and develop software and hardware
for the final array.
The $25 million dish field is scheduled to operate in 2005.
Once completed, it will be the world's largest telescope
devoted to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and
among the largest radio telescopes in the world.
It will compare in signal collecting area to the Very Large
Array in New Mexico, radio astronomy's premier imaging
The SETI search will begin with 1,000 nearby stars and then
eventually move outward to include 1 million stars in our
galaxy. It will also conduct more traditional research in
radio astronomy, such as examining the formation of stars,
according to the institute.
Correspondent Don Knapp contributed to this report.
ET, are you home?
March 3, 1999
University of California-Berkeley
The Very Large Array
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