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TinWiki: Allen Telescope Array

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posted on Jul, 9 2009 @ 01:19 PM

The Allen Telescope Array (also known as the ATA) is a SETI dedicated radio telescope being constructed near Hat Creek California. Other radio telescope projects will be conducted at the site, but it's main purpose is to search for extraterrestrial signals by sweeping broad swaths of the sky at one time.

The first 42 dish antennas came on line in October of 2007 but the eventual construction will be an array of 350 radio receiving dishes using mostly off the shelf parts to keep cost down.

The major funding for this project comes from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. Paul Allen is a well known philanthropist and one of the co-founders of the Microsoft Corporation. Other funding is coming from the University of California Berkeley, the SETI Institute and additional private donations.

Project History

Although the project had been on the drawing board for many years and spurred on by the vision of Frank Drake, the SETI Institute did not have the funding to start real work until Paul Allen infused $11.5 million (U.S.) in 2001. This funding allowed for the purchase of land for the site and research into the design of equipment to be used for the actual array.

After several years in the planning stage Paul Allen contributed a further $13.5 million (U.S.) to start the first stages of construction. The original name for the project was the One Hectare Telescope but due to the largess of Mr. Allen's contributions it has now been named after him.

It is estimated to cost an additional $40 million (U.S.) approximately to complete the telescope, but further funding may come from such sources as DARPA and other branches of the U.S. government. The unique quality of this telescope is the ability to expand it's sensitivity by adding dish antennas as funding becomes available. Also the project is being examined closely by scientist in 19 countries wanting to build the Square Kilometer Array that will be much more sensitive.


The telescope is designed in a way that it can be used simultaneously for radio astronomy and the search for extraterrestrial signals. Unlike most radio telescopes that can only search very narrow areas of the cosmos at one time, this array will have a very wide field of view and the ability to detect a much larger spectrum of radio signals than are currently available to telescopes like Aricibo.

Current Status 2008

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