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Allen Telescope Array Shut Down

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the ears-wide-shut dept.

Space 98

SETIGuy writes "The Allen Telescope Array has been put into hibernation due to lack of funds to continue operations. Most of the technical staff have been laid off or moved to other projects. It's too early to call it closed, but the hibernation state can only last for 6 months or so before a full shutdown is necessary. Coming back from a full shutdown would be expensive. It's unfortunate that the telescope never received the funding to build the 350 dish antennas that would make it a world class instrument. In its current 42-antenna state, it is not a significant enough improvement over other telescopes to attract enough funding to keep operating."

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interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35933844)

How will this affect the search for intelligent space allens?

Re:interesting... (1)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 3 years ago | (#35933886)

The SETI Institute's main efforts recently have used this telescope. Those are shut down. SETI efforts unrelated to the ATA (Berkeley, Harvard, JPL, Greenbank, etc) are unaffected.

Re:interesting... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35933942)

Alien declared victory at Planet(already ex) Pluto due to their sheer influential mind that steers Scientist from counting pluto as planet(thus provide them more privacy!) Other conspicuous evidence, Today an other victory for Planet Pluto that today's partial shutdown of Telescope Array give them even MORE privacy! No more humans peeking through the window to see aliens naked!

Do you want to know why Planet Pluto is small? That is because aliens convinced the scientists that Pluto is extreme small with all of those obscure scientific data! Hip Hip Hooray for aliens!! More privacy for aliens! less privacy for humans!

Re:interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35940818)

They told me that if I voted for McCain science budgets would be universally slashed, projects terminated and the administration would deny that this would have any impact at all on science.

They were right, of course.

Re:interesting... (1)

ethanms (319039) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934262)

Apace Allens, much like our own Earth-based Illegal-Allens, will simply continue to exist without drawing notice from the public, or even the scientific community.

I called INS the other day on a guy at work, but it turned out he was an Alan, and they don't accept those for deportation...

Alien? (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35933880)

Well, I read it as the "Alien Telescope" and started to wonder if funding problems were universal, so to speak. Then I looked it up - Alien telescope is actually pretty close, but it's named after Paul Allen [wikipedia.org] (the Microsoft Billionaire that has his own submarine, etc).

Reality sucks most of the time.

Re:Alien? (1)

Americium (1343605) | more than 3 years ago | (#35933998)

I had to go back and reread the title myself, at first I thought your post was just a joke. If you hadn't specifically mentioned Allen's name I wouldn't have thought it was wrong at all.

Re:Alien? (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934382)

Funny/Embarrassing thing - I had thought the word in the title was "Alien" until I read the grandparent post! I was thinking "what is this 'Alien Telescope Array' and why haven't I heard anything about it until now?"

In any case, at least skimming through the Wikipedia article it sounds like the bulk of the funding came from Paul Allen. While the Scientific American article plays this as a byproduct of the budget crunch, I'd be curious to know how much of its cash came from actual government sources and how much from rich people like Allen who enjoy throwing cash at whatever their current whim is - and, if so, is the problem just that they're now bored with that subject and have moved on to the next one?

Re:Alien? (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934912)

As I understand it (and I'm a bystander,not an expert), Allen's involvement was that he signed on to fund the prototype development up through the initial operating capability, with the understanding that it would find its own funding for operation after that.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allen_Telescope_Array [wikipedia.org]

Re:Alien? (1)

oni (41625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935088)

In all honesty, they might have gotten more funding for it if it wasn't an ego trip for a billionaire. I never understand what these guys are thinking, slapping their name on everything. You're still going to die dude.

But anyway, do I want to give my money to make sure a billionaire's telescope stays in operation? Not really. Would I give money to see that the Carl Sagan telescope stays in operation? Maybe.

Re:Alien? (1)

cavreader (1903280) | more than 3 years ago | (#35941658)

As long as they fund things like this I don't see any reason they can't include their name.

Re:Alien? (1)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935264)

Paul Allen? What? It says "Alien".

(Rereads headline.)

DAMMIT!

Aliens? (-1)

mholve (1101) | more than 3 years ago | (#35933906)

The U.S. doesn't even care about illegal aliens - let alone extraterrestrial ones.

Re:Aliens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35934368)

Geez, mods these days have no sense of humor.

Re:Aliens? (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35936748)

Unbelievable moderator abuse of a low low 4-digit UID. I've seen far lamer lulz go +5 funny.

Re:Aliens? (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934370)

The U.S. doesn't even care about illegal aliens - let alone extraterrestrial ones.

I guess the space aliens didn't grease the palms of the "intelligent" politicians.
If money is the problem, tell the scientists to declare war on them, there seems to be more taxpayer funded loot for war than ever.

Much as I'm skeptical of the SETI stuff (0)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35933908)

It would only be fair to point out that this array wasn't just looking for little green men. It was also doing a lot of mainstream survey that could actually prove useful. I suspect its association with SETI is one of the reasons it's had a tough time--as it's made it more a "fringe" project than it needed to be and overshadowed the other survey work it was doing.

Re:Much as I'm skeptical of the SETI stuff (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934230)

But I wonder if it wasn't too concentrated [wikimedia.org] to make it a world class device, even if it did get built out to the full compliment.

Can't you do just as much with fewer dishes by organizing them into a very long baseline array?

Re:Much as I'm skeptical of the SETI stuff (3, Informative)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934626)

I don't think that picture is to scale on dish size. I think the runway is at least 3000 feet long and 60 feet wide. The dishes are much smaller than what's shown.

The goal with ATA was to use small inexpensive dishes to get about 10,000 m^2 of collecting area. To get the best interferometry you want to use a wide variety of baselines. Short spacing give large structure. Long spacings give you small scale structure. Without a large number of baselines you have a hard time getting absolute intensities of structures. With regularly spaced arrays, such as the VLA, intensities are often normalized to single dish measurements. Most of the time VLBI is used only for positional information (i.e. to measure the parallax and proper motion of a pulsar) rather than intensity information and only gives information along the axis perpendicular to the baseline of the telescopes used.

ATA was a tradeoff between expense, difficulty of routing signal fibers, available land, collecting area, and angular resolution. Had it been fully built, it would be an amazing instrument.

Re:Much as I'm skeptical of the SETI stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35939648)

I don't think that picture is to scale on dish size. I think the runway is at least 3000 feet long and 60 feet wide. The dishes are much smaller than what's shown.

The goal with ATA was to use small inexpensive dishes to get about 10,000 m^2 of collecting area. To get the best interferometry you want to use a wide variety of baselines. Short spacing give large structure. Long spacings give you small scale structure. Without a large number of baselines you have a hard time getting absolute intensities of structures. With regularly spaced arrays, such as the VLA, intensities are often normalized to single dish measurements. Most of the time VLBI is used only for positional information (i.e. to measure the parallax and proper motion of a pulsar) rather than intensity information and only gives information along the axis perpendicular to the baseline of the telescopes used.

ATA was a tradeoff between expense, difficulty of routing signal fibers, available land, collecting area, and angular resolution. Had it been fully built, it would be an amazing instrument.

I will write to my dear friend Sir Patrick Moore regarding this issue. If Patrick considers this worthwhile, there maybe a way of saving this project so not all hope is lost.

Regards,
NSN

Re:Much as I'm skeptical of the SETI stuff (1)

M1FCJ (586251) | more than 3 years ago | (#35940052)

Ah, Dear Sir Patrick Moore... Has he stopped being a misogynist [timesonline.co.uk] ? My share of reverence disappeared after reading his various comments regarding women. He's a relic of the 1900s, not even 20th Century. I hope he retires from public life soon without further damaging himself.

Re:Much as I'm skeptical of the SETI stuff (4, Insightful)

ethanms (319039) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934460)

What is to skeptical about when it comes to SETI? I mean, do you doubt the existence of ET intelligence? The current programs ability to find them? Or do you question the current desire of some to find them?

Now... if you want to doubt the current programs that's one thing... looking simply at radio waves is a narrow focus based on what we currently believe to be the best way to transmit information in our particular place. In 200 years we might look at the concept of radio transmission in the same way that today we look at the concept of using drums or smoke signals for communication... slow data rate, limited range, etc...

But each time you look up at that sky realize that some of those dots are not actually suns... they are entire GALAXIES of suns. With millions of potential star systems why is it so difficult to believe that some of them might contain a civilization that is at a point which is equal to or far greater then our current current state of technology and may in fact be transmitting something we can "hear"? ...and if it's because "we're too far to bother", imagine if people had said that back in the days of sailing ships and horses... the desire to travel great distances in the shortest possible time has pushed for some amazing discoveries.

Re:Much as I'm skeptical of the SETI stuff (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934678)

Very few of those dots are galaxies, maybe six if you went all over the world and looked at the sky far from cities....the human eye can only see Andromeda and a few bright companions of the Milky Way.

It could very well be that multi-cellular life is unique to Earth, or intelligent life is. Life itself might be due to peculiar unique thing to earth, perhaps the accident that made our moon and mars.

Re:Much as I'm skeptical of the SETI stuff (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935398)

Andromeda's a smudge, not a dot. And you can't see it from a city. At least not one whose power grid hasn't been recently bombed out.

Re:Much as I'm skeptical of the SETI stuff (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937600)

It's actually disappointing, how few stars there are in the sky that can be seen, two or three thousand at any one time under the most ideal conditions. Suppose that the chances of intelligent life are on average one per milky-way sized galaxy, then each such planet would be essentially alone and never able to communicate with another and would forever be unaware of the other's existence.

Re:Much as I'm skeptical of the SETI stuff (1)

M1FCJ (586251) | more than 3 years ago | (#35940070)

Last night from the little town I live 30 miles out of London I could only see the major constellations. Everything else was washed out by the light sources.

The Campaign for Dark Skies is doing excellent work here in UK, eventually one day we will have sensible lighting all around us.

Re:Much as I'm skeptical of the SETI stuff (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35956918)

I can still remember the night about 10 years ago when they powered-up the lighting on just one brand-new automobile dealership 4 miles from my house, and half the stars that were there the night before, weren't there any more.

I can also remember lying on my back on a beach in the Grand Canyon on a moonless night, seeing the sky the way every human used to see it, and seeing everything around me castng sharp shadows just from starlight.

We could actually see at night, until we started using light to see by.

Re:Much as I'm skeptical of the SETI stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35934704)

Galaxies do not look like dots or "suns". Go take Astronomy 101.

Also, you on't seem to understand how vastly big space is, and how incredibly pokey light speed is. Again, go take Astronomy 101.

Re:Much as I'm skeptical of the SETI stuff (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 3 years ago | (#35941288)

In most curriculums Astronomy 101 deals with the planets of the Solar System. Not a lot of talk about galaxies until Astronomy 102 ;).

All in all though, I recently saw one of the head researchers of the SETI project at a presentation, and he seemed very level headed about the whole thing. He was completely open to the idea that ET might not be out there at all, or might be too far, or their methods may be flawed in such a way that we'd never detect them using the methods that SETI currently employs.

It all basically boils down to one thing though: what if that isn't the case? If you only limit yourself to ventures which have certainty of success, then we're in for a very boring future. SETI's a gamble. We take a look, we what (if anything) is out there, and if it's not successful, then oh well. We tried.

Re:Much as I'm skeptical of the SETI stuff (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935028)

What is to skeptical about when it comes to SETI? I mean, do you doubt the existence of ET intelligence? The current programs ability to find them? Or do you question the current desire of some to find them?

I'm skeptical that radio searches are the way to find them. I believe that due to the shear number of galaxies and stars out there, that the one in a trillion chance of life must have been repeated many times so it's very likely that ET intelligent life exists.

However, we're already seeing why leaking radio waves are not going to find any ET's - in the hundred years since radio was invented, we are well on our way with replacing high powered analog transmitters with much lowered powered digital and spread spectrum transmissions -- transmissions that sound much like random static if you don't know what you're listening to.

There's a very small likelihood that an intelligent society that may have developed a millions of years ago is still in their 100 year "analog radio" timeframe so we can intercept their communications.

It's possible that some alien society is sending out radio beacons to announce their presence (and maybe even transmitting the plans to a time/space travel device that we can build to reach them), but I'm a little skeptical that this would be the case, again because whatever window of time that they'd feel like announcing their presence wouldn't match up with when we are listening since our societies may be millions or billions of years apart in development.

Re:Much as I'm skeptical of the SETI stuff (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935380)

That "travel farther in less time" thing is hitting walls all over the place.

It's not a matter of serendipitous engineering discoveries, sweat equity, and balls any more.

You're going to have to find a new branch of physics that allows such travel.

As for why haven't they visited? Well, have you actually checked out the livingroom of every dust mite in your mattress? Gone out of your way to commune with the coyotes who live on the other side of the hill you drive by on your commute? Put 3/4ths of your planetary productivity into developing and launching a mission to our nearest star?

They aren't here because they probably have no idea we're here. Even if our faintest signals could be seen out in space, they're only about 100 light-years away. About a 15,000 stars in that envelope. And they're probably not tuning into AM radio looking for signals at -500 dbm. in our direction. We're out here in the galactic boonies, and they'll be looking primarily towards the galactic center. So only that small sliver of the spheroid that is farther out than we are will have much chance of looking our way at all.

What are the chances 100 stars have someone likely to see us who are ready to visit us within a century?

Hey Lucky, my man! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35933968)

Maybe they should try putting cats into orbit?

Why? (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934022)

It's too early to call it closed, but the hibernation state can only last for 6 months or so before a full shutdown is necessary. Coming back from a full shutdown would be expensive.

Can anyone find the quote above anywhere other than /., and/or explain why?

I've spent a substantial number of years tangentially involved with production telecom microwave dishes and also ham radio microwave stuff. I don't know of any inherent technological limitation relating to 6 months... Maybe they mean something calendar based, like no snow removal in October means the dishes have to come down before they smashed down? Its not like lichen will colonize the LNAs or the support arms grow like untrimmed trees or any other inherent technological limitation. Maybe the next site rent payment (real rent or property tax) is due in 6 months and its pay up or hit the streets.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35934170)

I think it may be due to equipment used for cooling ... Liq. N or something. It probably leaks a bit

But it is an interesting question.

Re:Why? (1)

spopepro (1302967) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934416)

I believe this is on the right track. I don't know about these systems, but some radio-telescopes require liquid N for cooling the first stages of amplification circuitry. The early stages are super-high gain, and since you can't really change the bandwidth measured too much, and there are practical limits to the resistance of the components used (and you sure as hell can't change Boltzmann's constant) the easiest way to eliminate random noise is to get T as close to 0K as practicable.

Another issue can be calibration. Maybe if it's not active it's not being calibrated and for sensitive equipment, that can mean that it's no longer "trusted" even if it's later brought back within spec.

Re:Why? (1)

fartingfool (1208968) | more than 3 years ago | (#35936398)

According to the wikipedia the receivers are cooled to 45K. So I'm going to guess this has a lot to do with it. I imagine getting all of those down to temperature again wouldn't be fun (making sure lines are clear/sealed/sound then re-pressurizing and monitoring for leaks etc)

Re:Why? (1)

M1FCJ (586251) | more than 3 years ago | (#35940092)

I guess most employees would have moved on with all of the know-how, passwords and operational procedures, where they are written down, which will be on display in a cellar with no lights on the stairs, in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35934254)

or maybe it would be expensive to bring it back online after 6 months of code rot

Re:Why? (1)

Bacon Bits (926911) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934290)

I would expect it's more a personnel issue. "Most staff" have been laid off, so presumably the rest will at the end of the hibernation state when the money to maintain the hibernation runs out.

Re:Why? (3, Insightful)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934302)

It's inside knowledge. I don't think it's published anywhere. My understanding is they are keeping the receivers cold and power to some systems on to preserve them. That costs some real money, and that determines how long they can stay in that state. The trade off is that you can return to operation from hibernation state fairly quickly and cheaply. Once they go to full shutdown, they'll be disassembling the telescopes and bringing critical components inside. Coming back from that state would be very expensive.

Re:Why? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934424)

OK liquid nitrogen cooled LNAs... Err... I realize its been a couple years, but our pressurized waveguides only lasted a couple weeks between liq N2 dewar fills. Is the state of the art more than 6 months now? Or maybe their waveguide runs are much newer and shorter than ours (equals less leaks)

Re:Why? (1)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934784)

I think they might have closed cycle LN2 refrigerators at each telescope so as not to require require refills Refilling dewars at 42 dishes will keep you busy. Refilling them at 350 dishes would drive you nuts.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937358)

Radio telescope receivers typically have liquid helium cooling, with the refrigeration apparatus attached to the receiver. That is, you don't actually walk around with a bucket of coolant, topping up dewars - you just pipe some electricity their way, and they cool themselves.

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934866)

One thing you learn from talking to people who work with radio astronomy is that "low noise" means different things to different people. Telecoms guys are usually satisfied with the results they can get from room temperature amplifiers. Radio astronomers are not, they run their amplifiers at liquid nitrogen or sometimes even liquid helium temperatures.

This leaves a problem if they want to shut down, if they keep the cooling systems turned on then the cooling systems keep costing money to run and maintain. If they turn the cooling systems off then they risk damage from the warm up and the following cool down.

I suspect 6 months is how long they can afford to keep the cooling etc running before they have to give up and let the system warm up

Re:Why? Mechanical refrigeration (1)

NixieBunny (859050) | more than 3 years ago | (#35939120)

I work on a telescope that uses helium-based refrigeration systems like these, and they don't keep running more than a few months without maintenance. The displacer seals get worn out, and things go south fast.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35935662)

I spoke to my grandfather regarding this array, as it is very near some property the family has in Northern California. He said that one of the issues they are facing with a shutdown is that the land is leased from the Department of Forestry, and in their lease it states that the land must be returned to it's original, pristine condition were the array to be shut down. Perhaps this 6-month figure comes from their lease agreement?

Hey, Elon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35934054)

Instead of plowing untold amounts of money in a megalomaniacal and useless pursuit of "retiring on Mars", here's a real, practical project to fund! Unless he meant he'll retire with the money he'll make with Mars shenanigans.

Re:Hey, Elon (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935420)

Honestly, I think you have that assessment backwards.

SETI is less practical than a Mars mission. And far less likely to succeed in Musk's lifetime.

Re:Hey, Elon (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 3 years ago | (#35942822)

So what? Are we already at the point in the U.S. where research must yield a product and quickly or its considered "liburul" and meaningless?

I guess I don't want to know the answer to that.

It seems we're already at a point with research where 1) it has to be a money maker and quick or 2) some rich dude can put his name on it or claim they did it in some monomaniacal way.

Re:Hey, Elon (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35956850)

We're at a point in the economy where frivolity is frivolity and earnest but overstated arguments about its worth to humanity need to be ignored in favor of budgeting according to utility.

So, why doesnt paul allen fund it then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35934126)

Clearly nobody else thought Contact was a good enough movie to fund it IRL

Science to be done... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35934186)

S.E.T.I. stuff aside, there's still science to be done, and this Telescope Array is an asset waiting to be utilized. Always sad to see useful technology go to waste...

How much more project infrastructure in the US is going to be abandoned? Is the US really trying to give up on being the R&D front-runner on the planet? Might be a bit exaggerated, but it's not far off the mark is it.
/rant

Re:Science to be done... (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 3 years ago | (#35942836)

anything that can be unscrewed will be sold for quick cash.

Look what local governments are doing... selling off the infrastructure for fast bucks.

donations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35934210)

Just donated to SETI.org hopefully the money will help a bit.

Before everyone starts arguing about SETI (1)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934228)

Before everyone starts arguing about the merit of SETI, I should point out that SETI was only one small part of what this telescope would have done. I would estimate that less that 5% of the observations made were SETI related.

But, unfortunately, with only 42 dishes, the ATA was outclassed by other telescopes for most any purpose for which it was used. Even in SETI observation, the Arecibo telescope is more sensitive, and has a wider simultaneous field of view. The Green Bank Telescope also has a larger field of view covers, the same range of sky, and has about the same sensitivity. If ATA had been completed, it would have had much better sensitivity (although still a tiny field of view). I won't guess at Paul Allen's motivation in not funding further construction.

Re:Before everyone starts arguing about SETI (1)

ethanms (319039) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934312)

Hey, so what was up w/ the 6 months thing? What is the difference between Hibernation and Shutdown and why is 6 months a key number?

BTW, I agree w/ your Sig and make a money donation to UC-B for Seti each year, as well as run a few machines for the project... since 1999 :)

Re:Before everyone starts arguing about SETI (4, Informative)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934392)

Thanks. ;) Hibernation is like a warm shutdown. The receivers are kept at cryogenic temperatures and some systems are powered on. When they run out of money to pay the power bills they'll need to start disassembling things to protect sensitive parts from the elements. Which means reassembling it if they get funded. Both the disassembly and the reassembly are expensive.

Re:Before everyone starts arguing about SETI (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934636)

But, unfortunately, with only 42 dishes, the ATA was outclassed by other telescopes for most any purpose for which it was used. Even in SETI observation, the Arecibo telescope is more sensitive, and has a wider simultaneous field of view. The Green Bank Telescope also has a larger field of view covers, the same range of sky, and has about the same sensitivity.

I've had one foot each in two optical hobbies for a couple decades now, microscopy and telescopes.

The thing I always enjoyed about microscopy is people are cool and supportive with having a microscope purely for the sake of owning a microscope. Any "new" microscope is cherished and everyone cheers for everyone else's purchase and we microscopists all hold hands and sing campfire songs to each other with smiles on our faces and a giving spirit in our hearts; if someone needs to "borrow" a box of coverslips or an odd objective lens or we share and share alike with some really nice prepared slides. When we aren't hugging trees and each other, I mean.

On the other hand ... In the astronomy world ... you build a 61 mm reflector and all anyone can talk about is how the existing 60 mm is obsolete and may as well be scrapped because its worthless and everyone owning the smaller scope should be fired and only one can be the winner whom has any worth to humanity or progress toward the future for shame for shame for shame; now go build a 62 mm so as to trash talk the 61 mm guys...

Its just a cultural difference I've observed over the decades between these two optical hobbies. Perhaps because microscopists get a heck of a lot more sleep during the summer nights than telescopists, or something related to coffee consumption. Its not unique to this individual /. discussion by any means.

Re:Before everyone starts arguing about SETI (1)

nebosuke (1012041) | more than 3 years ago | (#35938278)

Based on my interactions with people from both groups, I gather that it mostly stems from the fact that the subjects of microscopic observations are, for most practical purposes, exclusive to a specific microscope--especially where dynamic (and sometimes interactive) systems or events are concerned. In the case of telescopes used for astronomy, they are all pointed at the same, largely static things. The data from major telescopes is often made widely available such that there is essentially no scientific value for anything other than the highest quality available data set.

In the astronomy world, one telescope's team could feasibly pull a douchebag maneuver like tracking the observations of another team's inferior telescope and essentially reducing the value of the second team's data to marginal at best, where this is impossible in the case of microscopes unless they are physically co-located. Because of this, the implication is that once a superior telescope comes on line, all lesser telescopes of its type only retain whatever value they have to the extent that the superior telescope's team suffers them to make exclusive observations. The fact that there is too much sky for any one (or really all telescopes in the world) to observe at any given time apparently isn't enough to stop the dick swinging that often goes on.

Re:Before everyone starts arguing about SETI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35939184)

I think it's because you're a douche and while the amateur astronomers can sense that, the microscopists all have their heads up their asses.

Bill Gates (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934238)

... needs to match his long time friend's funding.

Don't worry, they'll find us (1)

obarel (670863) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934246)

Why are we trying to find aliens? Any race that gets to the top must be a murderous race, and aliens are no exceptions.

Re:Don't worry, they'll find us (1)

ethanms (319039) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934568)

One might posit that in our present state we have halted, or at least significantly slowed, our own evolution by Darwinian standards... after all, how can evolution continue when for the most part most of the world's people live long enough to reach sexual maturity and the vast majority of which have sufficient free will when it comes to procreation.

So perhaps an alien race capable of finding us would simply be "us", but several hundred (or thousand?) years advanced from our present technology level, they may simply be bored and looking to travel just as we have people living in "developed" countries today who travel to various locations around the globe for benign purposes.

Or better yet, maybe they need some basic and plentiful element that we can trade with them...

Or maybe they'll eat our eye balls like juju bees... who knows...

Re:Don't worry, they'll find us (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934684)

they may simply be bored and looking to travel just as we have people living in "developed" countries today who travel to various locations around the globe for benign purposes.

AKA "sex tourism"?

(sorry, couldn't resist bringing that up)

Re:Don't worry, they'll find us (1)

kylemonger (686302) | more than 3 years ago | (#35936360)

Once civilization got going, i.e. any group of human larger than family unit, we began the evolution of weakly superhuman entities: villages, tribes, city-states and on up to empires. And that evolution continues with competition between corporate entities, kingdoms and governments today. Continue this evolution another few millenia to get to the point where interstellar wayfaring is possible and I doubt very much that any aliens that show up will be tourists. Most likely they will be an appendage of a vast entity of whose motives I cannot begin to guess. Run.

Re:Don't worry, they'll find us (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934812)

Why are we trying to find aliens? Any race that gets to the top must be a murderous race, and aliens are no exceptions.

Well, if there actually are aliens, and they actually are murderous, that would be an extremely good reason that we should be looking. It's only the imaginary monster under the bed for which it's true "if you pretend you don't see it, then it won't hurt you."

Re:Don't worry, they'll find us (1)

lxs (131946) | more than 3 years ago | (#35940424)

That's why we need to find them before they find us.

ethical accountability (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35934358)

Just to comment, though slightly off topic, any funds currently spent on space exploration past detecting near-earth objects and other such potential threats to the whole of humanity and life on this planet, should be considered irresponsible, unethical and morally questionable until we have eradicated certain issues that plague humanity such as poverty, illiteracy, poor or no education, using non-renewable as well as environmentally disruptive and destructive fuels, etc. We have no business in space because even though we can walk, we're not great at running and until then, we have no business flying...

Re:ethical accountability (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35934430)

Well, that's one opinion. And nobody is stopping you from giving your hard earned money to solve these problems.

Re:ethical accountability (5, Insightful)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934858)

Do you watch TV? Go to movies? Play video games? Listen to music? Why do you spend your money in such an irresponsible, unethical and morally questionable manner when we haven't eradicated certain issues that plague humanity such as poverty, illiteracy, poor or no education, using non-renewable as well as environmentally disruptive and destructive fuels, etc. You have no business wasting money on entertainment until we've done so.

For Those who Missed it.(Arial is a tricky beast) (2)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934494)

It is Allen (A L L E N) not Alien (A L I E N)

Re:For Those who Missed it.(Arial is a tricky beas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35934660)

This Arial is Alien to me too.

Re:For Those who Missed it.(Arial is a tricky beas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35938740)

A short history of Arial...

boss: Design a font called "Arial".
designer: I would like to call it "Arlal".
boss: No. Arial.
designer: Ok (but I'll make i look as much as possible like l, asshole!)

As the world watches America closes shop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35934622)

Where's your innovation now? Destroyed by the angry hoardes of dissatisified and unhappy tea-partiers. Unhappy that they were too ignorant to not ruin their own lives, they seek to ensure that the rest of America feels their pain.

How about this America? Stop waging war and stop listening to these bitter-never-have-beens, how about you actually do something heroic.

ignorant fool (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934738)

What are you babbling about, two most powerful optical telescopes are Keck in Hawaii and Hubble in space. Most powerful IR telescope is Spitzer, U.S. owned and operated. Fermi gamma ray telescope, by NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Sweden. Then there's the Atacama in Chile which will be the most power radio telescope, funded by the U.S., Canada, EU and Japan.

Re:ignorant fool (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 3 years ago | (#35942920)

more and more of these are going to go away, methinks.

42 ought to answer any questions about life, the u (1)

md65536 (670240) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934680)

Can't they get by on 42? That ought to be enough to answer any questions about life, the universe, and uh, you know... whatever else...

Costs $2.5 MM per year (1)

arielCo (995647) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934750)

ATA operations cost about $1.5 million per year, Pierson said, and the SETI science campaign at ATA costs another $1 million annually.

So, 20 years of operation cost about the same as one extra F/A-18E/F [bloomberg.com] ? Nice.

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35934814)

how much money was wasted till they came to this conclusion. Nobody cares about the sound of stars, even if there is life on other planets we can't get to them or communicate with them, SETI is a colossal waste of resources. How about we solve our own world's problems first before wasting money wondering what's out in space.

Young people... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35934826)

stay the hell out of science.

They should rename it the Darl-a-SCOpe (1)

decula03 (1082847) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934890)

    I can only think about the massive lawsuit Mr. Allen attempted last year was
    to be a further fund arm for projects like this.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-20025438-37.html [cnet.com]

    Ok, Google, you have Google Sky, you got out of a stupid lawsuit, here's
    a tax writ ..... good project!

I'm surprised... (0)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 3 years ago | (#35934952)

In its current 42-antenna state, it is not a significant enough improvement over other telescopes to attract enough funding to keep operating.

... I would have thought that 42 [wikipedia.org] dishes would be enough to even determine
the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything [wikipedia.org] ...

Stupid Policies (-1, Flamebait)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935194)

We fail to tax the rich and the corporations and neglect everything that is important. We have a retarder population calling their buddies at the Tea Party. Join me. I run the P. Party and I have something for their tea.

Probably Pointless Anyway (1)

Maltheus (248271) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935290)

Since all it would take is just one alien species, capable of building a self-replicating robot ship, to populate the entire galaxy with probes in the astronomical blink of an eye, I'd say that there is likely another species out there shielding us from the discovery. Either that of there is no one else. In both cases, searching for signs of intelligent life is going to be a waste of time and money.

Solution (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935392)

Some film studio could buy it up and use it for making a movie about a message from ET's

Well, that figures (2, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935572)

VLA is being shut down soon, I think sometime in 2012 . It is perhaps going to be replaced by an array in Chile.

Aricebo is being shut down as well.

Sort of makes sense that we wouldn't build a real replacement in the US an even if we did, it would get shut down as well.

Frankly, nobody is all that interested. There are much more interesting things to spend money on than science, things that people watching American Idol want to hear about. The few people that might be interested in science, well, they are just nerds anyway and don't count.

Science just isn't all that popular.

Re:Well, that figures (2)

ogre7299 (229737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937360)

The VLA is not being closed, it has been substantially upgraded and is now known as the EVLA, E for expanded. The array being constructed in Chile ALMA the Atacama Large Millimeter Array operates at higher frequencies 88GHz to ~700 GHz whereas the EVLA operates between 74MHz and 50 GHz. They are complementary facilities, in addition, ALMA is a multinational project, Europe, Japan, and the US. Arecibo has been under discussion for closure for many years; however, to restore the site to its natural state (as required by contract) would cost much more than keeping it running.

Science is popular; however, progress comes slowly these days and a lot must go on behind the scenes before something of broad interest comes out. The new facilities like the EVLA, ALMA, and the Large Hadron Collider are able to make ground breaking discoveries that are difficult to achieve with more limited instrumentation.

Re:Well, that figures (1)

wolvesofthenight (991664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35937418)

The VLA is not being shut down, nor is it being replaced by some array in Chile. I work in the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) Socorro, NM, office, so I know.

They are currently completing substantial Enhancements to the VLA, so it is becoming known as the EVLA. There has been talk of completely renaming it, though I don't know if that will actually happen. Anyway, the enhancements amount to replacing all of the 70s electronics with modern stuff. The VLA dishes, transporters, and track are remaining pretty much the same. Though they are replacing any worn out components, like the azimuth bearings [nrao.edu] . The upgrades are a *huge* improvement, much like switching your scientific calculations from an old Timex PC to your favorite modern computer. You can expect the VLA to be around for quite some time to come, and it will be producing far better data than before.

The project in Chile is the Alma Project. For the past decade an international partnership of NRAO and other observatories has been building a millimeter wave telescope in Chile. It is a lot like the VLA. But it has more dishes (28 vs 66), smaller dishes (25m vs 12m & 8m), and operates at a higher frequency. Alma does not replace the VLA; it complements the VLA.

Now, like everyone else, NRAO is feeling the budget crunch. So far this has not resulted in the closure of any of the major NRAO instruments. Hopefully that will continue to be the case, although that depends on what the next next few years bring.

For more information on the VLA, ALMA, and other cool radio telescopes please check here [nrao.edu] .

Re:Well, that figures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937480)

VLA is being shut down soon, I think sometime in 2012 . It is perhaps going to be replaced by an array in Chile.

The VLA is currently undergoing some major upgrades, turning it into the EVLA (Expanded VLA). This involves building a few new antennas (a mild improvement) and replacing most of the electronics (a huge improvement). By sometime in 2012 (I think), the upgrade should be complete, and it won't be called the VLA anymore. Perhaps this is what you're thinking of when you say that it's being shut down.

The new array in Chile is ALMA [wikipedia.org] . It operates at much higher frequencies than the VLA/EVLA - so it will do some great science, but it's not a replacement, any more than an optical telescope is.

Btw, I'm an astronomy grad student - but in Australia, so I'm more familiar with our telescopes. So I haven't heard what's happening with Arecibo.

A normal und useful hygienic process (1)

mick232 (1610795) | more than 3 years ago | (#35935630)

If the instrument cannot attract funding it is time to phase it out. We can't keep running all scientific instruments ever built, even if scientific staff would like us to do so. As new and more powerful instruments are installed, resources have to be shifted over.

Fermi Paradox - Where are they? (1)

djl4570 (801529) | more than 3 years ago | (#35936400)

Maybe Paul Allen realized that the Fermi Paradox was worth pondering. The late Michael Crichton gave a speech titled "Aliens cause global warming" at Cal Tech in 2003 (Read it here http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122603134258207975.html [wsj.com] ) I found it educational. Not that doing the research was a bad idea, but after forty years we should have detected something more conclusive than the "wow" event. It means that there are no signals to detect (either they don't exist or are so attenuated that they cannot be detected) or that there is some flaw in our approach to detecting the signal.

Re:Fermi Paradox - Where are they? (1)

bledri (1283728) | more than 3 years ago | (#35939664)

... after forty years we should have detected something more conclusive than the "wow" event. It means that there are no signals to detect (either they don't exist or are so attenuated that they cannot be detected) or that there is some flaw in our approach to detecting the signal. ...

Or maybe space is big [quotationspage.com] ...

Graft ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35936650)

Has anybody considered that these 'off-the-shelf' TVRO dishes (albeit professional grade) were supposed to be inexpensive ?
They spent over $1M each on them. Perhaps a more frugal payroll would have brought more charitable contributions. Maybe some follow-on funding from Mr Allen ? There are rumors of Seti Institute has had some questionable ethics when dealing with the Haughton-Mars project on Devon Island.

Google Summer of Code (1)

braindrainbahrain (874202) | more than 3 years ago | (#35936672)

Interesting that they are one of the sponsored organizations for the Google Summer of Code [google-melange.com] . I guess we only have to wait a few hours to find out if any talented students will get awarded the chance to work on this since Seti Institute [seti.org] was mentoring a couple of projects

Coincidently (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35937166)

We can afford bombing sorties over Libya. Thanks Barry (aka GWB III). And you suckas thought he was anti-war.

It could be a really dumb question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35941296)

Can we use a lot of Sat TV dishes to replace a large dish in urban area and filter the result programmatically? Like processing signal from a microphone array? Each dish equipped with motorized gear, GPS, a 5MP camera. GPS gives coordinate, camera takes picture of the night sky it is pointing toward.

Allen Array (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35947936)

That is unfortunate. Howerver for $50 m they could have had fewer conventional 12 meter antennas that require fewer feeds and less correlation equipment, plus there would be higher reliability due to lower critical part counts, and each dish would supply 4 times the collection area and twice the gain. What was built could have been done with 11 each 12 meter antennas, or 3 each 25 meter antennas (17 times the collection area and over 4 times the gain per antenna). There are no magic potions in antenna design, in small antennas, the costs are dominated by the electronic systems, servo instrumentation and RF systems, which are also the most unreliable, so moving to small and many has the inevitable result you see. Sometimes bigger is better. Instead, the Allen Array founders wanted to reinvent the wheel, and as a result they lost the opportunity do do science. Perhaps the array goals would have been different with fewer antennas, but if three 25 meter antennas were built, people would be bidding for rights to use them, each of which can be used as a stand alone radio telescope. At 6 meters, they are not practical.

Re:Allen Array (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35955348)

The cost of building antennas scales as the cube of diameter. Also, larger antennas give you a smaller field of view on the sky. You want small dishes for wide-field surveys.
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