back to article Allen telescope array begins alien hunt

The first section of the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) has been powered up and is embarking on its mission to listen to a million stars. The array, funded in part by Microsoft founder Paul Allen, will eventually include 350 individual six-metre radio telescopes, all searching the skies for signs of alien life. "For SETI, the …


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  1. Graham Jordan

    I'm confused

    Just so im on the right page (not the brighest spark astrology... or anything for that matter), the telescopes are out to track alien radio waves from far off galaxys yeah? Don't radio waves travel slower than the speed of light? Thus any signal it picks up would be millions/billions of years old?

  2. Robert Grant

    2025? Check yer sums lads.

    My calculations state that we will find alien life by 2021. All claims that this is just a pointless number to state have been ignored by my oddly desperate optimism.

  3. Parax

    Alien Telescope Array

    Typo Surely?

    after all it is for SETI...

  4. Tawakalna

    I'm so happy..

    ..that it's his own money that he's wasting looking for aliens, rather than taxpayers' money. Now if we could only do the same with the entire space programme....

  5. Mark Belchamber

    Am I the only one...

    that read the name as Alien Telescope Array?

  6. Anonymous Coward

    @ Graham Jordan

    Radio waves are in the electromagnetic spectrum just like light, xrays, microwaves infrared etc. they have different wave lengths but travel at the same speed. But as other galaxies are many, sometimes thousands, or more, of lightyears away, yes the signals would also be that old. but whose saying they only developed in the last 100 years, after all earth is billions of years old and didn't even form till ages after the big bang.

  7. Joey

    First call from the Metabelius system...

    Hi, this is Gnarg from Metabelius Three Vacations. For this week only, we are offering a "take the splorgettes for free" deal. That's right, up to eight splorgettes go totallly free, you only have to pay for the three parents...

  8. Mike Moyle Silver badge

    @ Graham Jordan

    When you look into the night sky, you are looking at earth-orbiting satellites, local stars and distant galaxies at the same time. If one of the satelliites in your field of view is large and bright enough, you might see it moving against the stellar background and recognize that it's something different from the other things that you are looking at.

    Radiotelescopes can do that, too. Thus they can go about mapping extragalactic radio-frequency emanations and the like while (on the side) be checking for repetitive patterns (from anywhere in the direction in which it's pointed) that might indicate intelligently-produced signals. If such repetitive signals are spotted, then the astronomers would try to pin down its source.

    (I'm no astronomer, either... Maybe there should be an "I'm not a boffin, but I play one on TV" or "Demi-Boffin" comment icon.)

  9. Steve Taylor

    @graham Jordan and AC responder

    Galaxies are NOT "sometimes thousands, or more, of lightyears away" but ALWAYS at least MILLIONS of lights years away, at which distance no artificial radio signal could ever be detected (sorry for shouting, but idiots make me cross).

    There is zero chance of this detecting anything whatsoever, because aliens will not be using wasteful, no-directional, high-bandwidth signaling, and that's all that we could hope to detect. We won't be using it within 50 years, so why any moron expects that aliens will be is a complete mystery.

    OK, so Mr. Allen is too rich to miss a few millions, but there are far better ways of spending it.

  10. David Webb

    Distance <= 500 light years

    The NYT articles says that the million stars are within 500 light years.


    Dr. Shostak calculated that the full Allen array would be able to detect a signal from as far as 500 light years that is only a few times more powerful than what can now be sent by the Arecibo radio telescope, a 1,000-foot-diameter dish in Puerto Rico that is the world’s largest (although it is in danger of being shut down to save money). That translates to about a million stars, which he said was getting into a promising number. Dr. Shostak described the expanded search as looking for the needle in the proverbial haystack with a shovel instead of a spoon.


    so the signals would be at most 500 years old.

  11. Graham Jordan

    Cheers all

    I was on the right page. ish. Now, wheres Paris Hilton's kebab video?

  12. Luther Blissett

    Alien telescope array begins allen hunt

    The first section of the Alien Telescope Array (ATA) has been powered up and is embarking on its mission to listen to a million celebrities.

    The array will eventually include 350 individual six-metre radio telescopes, all searching the Earth for signs of intelligent entertainers.

    "For SITI, the ATA's technical capabilities exponentially increase our ability to search for intelligent signals, and may lead to the discovery of thinking beings elsewhere in the universe," said amanfromMars, a senior astronomer at the SITI Academy.

    The Alien told the New York Times the Academy would ring him [that's British English - Ed] first if they found a signal using the ATA. "So far, the phone hasn't rung," he told the paper.

    As well as seeking out signs of advanced terminal cultural decline, something its backers hope it will do by 2025, the ATA will also be useful for more mundane (if such a word should ever be applied) astrophysics, such as mapping the Andromeda Galaxy, collisions between black holes, dark galaxies, dark allens, and amorphous dark fictions.

    The design is based on an off-the-shelf satellite dish from Sky. The clever bit comes in the signal processing software that clears out interference. This is the combination the Alien said attracted him to the project. He put in 25ml in alien sperm to get the venture off his trolley.

    Now, the partners in charge, the Radio Astronomy Laboratory of the University of California, Berkeley, and the Siti Academy, reckon it will need another $41m to complete, depending on the price of spare parts for Sky boxes, the NYT reports. The BBC puts the completion costs at $25m.

    And if you believe that you'll believe everything.

  13. Joe Cooper
    Paris Hilton

    @Steve Taylor

    Nevermind other galaxies... I think you forgot that, believe it or not, there are other stars within the galaxy we're in. Stars within thousands, sometimes hundreds or even tens of lightyears.

    No, really!

    P.S. Not that it matters but there are multiple galaxies within a million light years.

  14. Ivor Bierd

    New vistas

    There is alien life out there and they all hate Microsoft now too.

  15. Steven Knox

    Another MS-related Attemt to Co-Opt TLAs?

    First they take try DNS, and now ATA? I'm sure there are other examples, but I'm too lazy to research,,,

  16. Lloyd


    Hold on, has this taken into consideration down time to install MS Tuesday updates and the 3 hours afterwards fixing your server once the update ballses it up, and the further amounts of time to recover your data once it shuts down without asking you because it's a really, really important update, honest.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Am I the only one ...

    ... Am I the only one that read Paul Allen as "Paul Alien"?

    That might explain the search. Or maybe somebody's hoping to find a market for Vista? I'd suggest extra-terrestrial *intelligence* might not be such a great place to start for that one.

  18. paul brain


    Assuming that we intercept any possible signals from X zillion light years away, we are basing this assumption on the fact that they will have implemented similar technology to us and developed along similar lines.

    Thus, is it not safe to say that if the development of technologies has some semblance or parallelism with the earth they've probably also developed quite complex DRM technology to protect their alien ( allen ) IP.

    So if we set DVDJohn the task to DeCrypting these advanced signals and he succeeds... does this mean that a vastly superior non benevolent IntergalacticMPAA will simply destroy earth from space for 'content theft' ??

    Just some pause for thought.

  19. Adam

    @ Steve Taylor

    "... ALWAYS at least MILLIONS of lights years away..."

    I'm sure the inhabitants of the Magellenic Clouds and quite a few others would be a bit peaved you don't recognise their galactic status! There's 14 known galaxies within 1 million lightyears of Earth, and over 60 within 10 million lightyears.

    Expect to hear some very irate comments from the Bligzaart people in Canis Major in a mere 50,000 years or so!

  20. amanfromMars Silver badge

    If the West fails to connect the dots .... the East is bound to sail ahead

    "Or maybe somebody's hoping to find a market for Vista? I'd suggest extra-terrestrial *intelligence* might not be such a great place to start for that one."

    Magical Mystery Turing scholars and Blithe Bletchley Boffins couldn't possibly agree, AC, knowing what a colossal Enigma, Intelligence is.

    And the answer also lies in the Yin to Steve Ballmer's Yang as he has expressed here .... "I have a personality that does not lend itself very well to pure rest and relaxation." ... Steve Ballmer ...;jsessionid=0YSDGCBEY0EP5QFIQMFCFFOAVCBQYIV0?xml=/money/2007/10/15/ccprof115.xml

    ...... which would then be a personality [although nowadays we have moved on into CyberIDEntities and IntelAIgent Designed Entities] that does lend itself very well to pure rest and relaxation.

    Then Vista can produce ITs Miracles and AQur2die4 in Qum2...... ITs Secrets held Sacred and Sovereign, Sacrosanct, in Selfless Service to the Flowers of the Perfumed Garden.

    And QuITe obviously, not a lot know that, because if they did they would be shouting it from the highest Mountain View.

    Do you think it is a Bilderberger perspective or is it here presented as such a Prospective or is the Thought shared here, merely to rattle their cage and BetaTest for their Worth/Fitness for Purpose in Virtually Real Matters?

  21. Adrian Esdaile

    Pending litigation....

    "does this mean that a vastly superior non benevolent IntergalacticMPAA will simply destroy earth from space for 'content theft' ??"

    Imagine the scene with Jodie Foster and John Hurt:

    'We've decrypted the Message! It says...'

    'Your planet is guilty under terms of the DCGA of providing links to terrorist organisations, hiding toxic waste in obscure geologic folders, unauthorised tampering with quantum encryption, littering galactic broadcast bands with crap like 'Big Brother' and innane dicussion of ignorant blonde white-trash tarts, harbouring lifeforms with irrational religious beliefs, and failing to observe required homage to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    Pending litigation, your planetary status has been revoked. Please lie face-down on the ground with your hands on your head."

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