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Posted at 03:45 PM ET, 04/26/2011

Lack of funding stops the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence

In this Oct. 9, 2007 file photo, radio telescopes of the Allen Telescope Array are seen in Hat Creek, Calif. (Ben Margot - AP)
Low funds have forced the SETI Institute to stop its search for extra terrestrial intelligence. Last week, the group put the Allen Telescope Array, which scans for messages from beyond the stars, into “hibernation” and stopped all but basic maintenance.

According to a report from the San Jose Mercury News, budget cuts in California and at the National Science Foundation have forced the program to shut down.

The dishes are named for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who donated millions to build the project.

SETI director Jill Tarter told the newspaper that the institute needs about $5 million to continue operations over the next two years.

She said that she hopes the Air Force may find a use for the dishes to keep track of space debris that threatens satellites, though the report says money is tight there, as well.

Other SETI projects using existing data will continue, the report said. The shutdown comes soon after NASA’s Kepler mission announced it had found more than 1,000 planet candidates, some in the habitable zone.

“There is a huge irony,” Tarter told the Mercury News, “that a time when we discover so many planets to look at, we don’t have the operating funds to listen.”

Related stories:

Kepler 10-b? NASA announces new discovery; we play ‘name that planet’

Search for extraterrestrial life gains momentum around the world

By  |  03:45 PM ET, 04/26/2011

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