My previous post on the hibernation of the Allen Array Telescope got a lot of attention and I have been contacted by various people to discuss its impact on the institute and on my research.
First of all, I should remind my readers that the SETI Institute is a research institution composed of three departments:
– The Center for education and public outreach which manages the E/PO of various NASA projects such as Kepler and SOFIA and also our Research Experience for Undergraduates program.
– The Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe composed of ~60 scientists who conduct scientific projects in all fields related to the Drake Equation, from astronomy to biology.
– The Center for SETI Research led by Jill Tarter which develops citizen science programs to engage the public in SETI Research.
I am a planetary astronomer of the Carl Sagan Center at the SETI Institute. My research is mostly funded by federal grants from NASA and NSF. Consequently, the hibernation of the ATA will have no impact on my research. Because we have numerous projects being conducted at the Carl Sagan Center by a large number of investigators, the SETI Institute is still a viable and robust research institution.
The Center of SETI Research could be impacted in a long term if the ATA is definitely closed since it aims at developing tools to analyze data collected by the array. However, despite all the alarming articles that you may have read, the ATA is only in hibernation, meaning that the institute did not give up and a lot of passionate and efficient people are working hard to revive the observatory.
Even if I am not directly involved in this project, I am convinced that it is important to keep the ATA project alive. We are the first generation of scientists to listen to the darkness, the first generation of astronomers to know that around stars in our Milky Way there are worlds, and the first generation in human history to have the desire to know whether or not we are alone. By unplugging the ears of cosmos we could be missing the great opportunity of answering to this question. If the chances of detection of a signal are small with the ATA, they would be null without it.