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Funding cuts shut down alien search devices

April 26, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
If aliens do exist on distant planets, California's budget crisis is making it even more difficult to find them.

Astronomers at the SETI Institute said a steep drop in state and federal funds has forced the shutdown of the Allen Telescope Array, a powerful tool in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, an effort scientists refer to as SETI.

The University of California, Berkeley has been helping the institute pay for a system of satellites, but it is low on money and can no longer help fund the project.

The shutdown came just as researchers were preparing to point the radio dishes at a batch of new planets.

Day-to-day operation of the satellites costs $1.5 million a year.

The SETI Institute was founded in 1984 and has received funding from NASA, the National Science Foundation and several other federal programs and private foundations. Other projects that will continue include the development of software and tools to be used in the search for extraterrestrial life.

Despite the shutdown of the Allen Telescope Array, the search for E.T. will go on using other telescopes such as a dish at Arecibo in Puerto Rico, the largest radio telescope in the world, an astronomer said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.