From: Stig Agermose <email@example.com> Date: Fri, 28 Jun 2002 06:13:28 +0200 Fwd Date: Fri, 28 Jun 2002 10:22:19 -0400 Subject: Shipment Of Dishes Expands ET Search Source: Record Searchlight - Redding, Northern California http://www.redding.com/top_stories/local/20020627toplo020.shtml Stig *** Shipment of dishes expands ET search 350 dishes will make up network for the telescope to scan heavens ** Jen Cooper Record Searchlight June 27, 2002 =97 7:36 a.m. * HAT CREEK OBSERVATORY =97 The arrival Wednesday of eight reflector dishes puts researchers at the SETI Institute one step closer to their goal: finding extraterrestrial life in space. The huge metal dishes, which are 20 feet by 24 feet and weigh more than 1,000 pounds each, are part of the Allen Telescope Array. The project will use 350 separate dishes to scan the heavens for life while simultaneously record traditional astronomy data. The first shipment of dishes arrived at the Hat Creek Observatory, operated by the University of California at Berkeley since the 1960s, shortly before 9 a.m. An 18-wheel truck that carried them was escorted by three California Highway Patrol vehicles. Truck driver Ron Chisham hauled the dishes from Idaho and said he got used to pointing and staring from other drivers during his three-day trek. Many people asked if his cargo was a UFO, he said. The dome-shaped silver dishes look like Hollywood's rendition of extraterrestrial spacecraft, minus flashing lights and tiny green men. Chisham and researchers joked about the resemblance Wednesday morning, saying people probably assumed the dishes were coming from Area 51 =97 a secured military base north of Las Vegas rumored to harbor alien life =97 not Idaho Falls. The Allen Telescope Array was originally called the One Hectare Telescope, but the name was changed to reflect the gifts of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. To date, Allen has given $11.5 million for the project. The project is a joint venture between the Mountain View-based SETI Institute and the University of California at Berkeley. The institute was named for the discipline of astronomy known as search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Seven of the eight reflector dishes were unloaded at the Hat Creek Observatory, located about 70 miles southeast of Redding near Lassen Volcanic National Park. The remaining dish was sent to Antioch where it will be the first dish fully assembled and wired. Three of the dishes at the Hat Creek Observatory will be used to make a test array, which should be fully put together in about three weeks. Diane Richards, SETI's director of marketing and communication, said the most significant thing about this telescope =97 set to be completed in 2005 =97 is that it will allow researchers the opportunity to look for life 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "That's always been a dream of ours," she said. "This is the first major step." SETI research is done using radio signals. Researchers target specific stars and then use different channels to look for radio emissions. The Allen Telescope Array also will be able to capture visual images of space. This telescope will be the first able to take pictures almost instantly, said David DeBoer, deputy project manager and engineer. "Contrary to the National Enquirer, there's absolutely no proof of extraterrestrials," DeBoer said. "We think one of the best ways to find out is to look at the transmissions they emit." Currently, SETI's research is conducted using a telescope in Puerto Rico, but the institute gets limited time =97 less than two months every year. Until the telescope array is finished, SETI will continue to use the Puerto Rico telescope. "We've been working on this for several years. These are the first tangible things in the field," he said, motioning to the eight dishes stacked on the truck. When SETI's own telescope is completed, researchers predict that within one or two months, the institute will have collected the same amount of data as all other SETI projects in the past 40 years. "It will vastly expand what we're doing," Richards said. "We've only observed a small number of stars compared to how many stars there are in the universe." Before SETI can proceed with its work, it needs to secure about $12 million in additional funding, Richards said. SETI researchers are hoping the test array will be successful and Allen, or another donor, will agree to donate the remaining funds. The tests are set to be completed by October, Richards said. Production on the final telescope is expected to be under way by next summer. The fully assembled dishes will be about 30 feet tall, and when all 350 are installed, they'll stretch for about a -mile radius, DeBoer said. Already the Hat Creek Observatory draws more than 1,000 visitors each year. The telescope array will most likely lead to many more interested sky-watchers, and DeBoer said the institute has a long-term goal of building a visitor's center. DeBoer said people are intrigued with SETI's work because the institute is seeking to answer an age-old question: Are we alone in the universe? The Allen Telescope Array's progress is being watched closely by other researchers because it could be a prototype for a much larger international telescope that would have 100 times the capability of SETI's telescope. "It just makes our project all the more exciting to have that potential in front of it," DeBoer said. Reporter Jen Cooper can be reached at 225-8215 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org. ** Thursday, June 27, 2002 =A92002 Record Searchlight - The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved.
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