March 22nd, 2009 15:22 EST
SETI and the Allen Telescope Array
Astronomer: We Will Discover Intelligent Alien Beings By 2025
This is a good day for science, the citizens of the United States and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The 32 million dollar request to support the Allen Telescope Array by the US National Science Foundation is not in the 2006 NSF budget.
It is noteworthy that the proposal was submitted to the NSF by Cornell University and not by the SETI Institute and describes traditional radio astronomy. Are they trying to hide SETI from the eyes of Congress as they did in 1992 when they changed the name to HRMS (High Resolution Microwave Survey) in the NASA appropriations bill? The following year, Congress terminated the SETI project. The House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics (109th Congress) has been briefed about SETI, past and present.
As someone who worked on the NASA SETI project for 15 years and was the one who told the SETI Institute about Paul Allen`s interest in SETI, I am dismayed to see what is happening.
According to Leo Blitz, the [UC, Berkeley] Radio Astronomy`s Lab`s director, "this is probably the best spot in the country to put the array." Referring to the Allen Telescope Array at Hat Creek, A. The Astronomy Magazine, Sept. 2004, Listening for a whisper by Seth Shostak.
"You may not be able to get a cell-phone signal, find a radio station or easily persuade your rabbit ears to tune in a televised baseball game, but the radio quiet above Hat Creek makes the wilds of eastern Shasta County a prime zone for exploring the frontiers of science". The Redding Record Searchlight, April 4, 2004, Hat Creek silence is scientific gold for astronomers by Bruce Ross.
"It`s quiet here -- radio quiet which is just what we need," says Professor Jack Welch about Hat Creek. The San Francisco Chronicle, Feb 14, 2002, article by David Perlman.
These comments do not coincide with reality. What Carl Sagan referred to as prime SETI frequency territory will be severely impacted by cell-phone transmissions at this site. Katabatic winds coming off the Hat Creek rim make this an ideal place for a paragliding launch site, but bad for radio astronomy. Winds in excess of 100mph destroyed the University of California radio telescope at Hat Creek in 1993. There are people living near the Hat Creek Observatory, there is a large RV campground 1/2 mile away, the distance to the main highway 89 is one mile and there is snow at the 41 degree geographical latitude.
Cell-phone bands second harmonic
808 - 821MHz 1616 - 1642MHz
851 - 866 1702 - 1732
869 - 894 1738 - 1788
928 - 929 1856 - 1858
931 - 932 1862 - 1864
932 - 935 1864 - 1870
941 - 944 1882 - 1888
944 - 960 1888 - 1920
Operational fixed radio transmissions at Burney, A which is 10 miles from Hat Creek.
1805MHz 5974.85MHz 6595MHz 6735MHz
2112 6034.15 6615 6755
2192.8 6063.8 6645 6765
2199.82 6123.1 6715.625 6775
5845 6152.75 6725 6795
5945.2 6545 6730 6805
Hat Creek is a poor site for a SETI radio telescope especially when one compares it to the Leigh Ranch. The Leigh Ranch is 880 acres of privately owned land situated in the Los Padres National Forest surrounded by mountains ranging from 2000 to 5000 feet in elevation. It is noteworthy that US National Forest land is a defacto radio quiet zone in that radio transmitters are prohibited except in a few designated areas. Here is what Professor Frank Drake said in a letter to the owner of the Leigh Ranch. "The Leigh Ranch is really a beautiful place. The topography at the Ranch and the absence of human activity makes it an extremely good site for a radio telescope". A picture of the Leigh Ranch was sent to the National Science Foundation.
The proposed Allen Telescope Array is supposed to revolutionize SETI research. But when one factors in antenna particulars that will bring down the sensitivity of the radio telescope, it loses its value to SETI.
The people behind the Allen Telescope Array are the same ones who were the leaders of the NASA SETI project with its failure to develop functional and reliable targeted search signal processing equipment. The use of this equipment by the SETI Institute for the last 10 years raises some serious questions. See my letter to the US National Forest Service that was published as a letter to the editor in the March 5, 2003 issue of the Burney, CA InterMountain News - Hat Creek Observatory. It is on the www.openseti.org website, SETI Institute`s Ethics and Integrity Questioned.
Google window [seti ethics] will also get it.
Not long ago, SETI Institute board member Linda Bernardi called me and asked what I was trying to achieve? Here is my answer. We hope to see the day when there is a SETI group that makes scientific integrity and engineering excellence its foremost objectives in the quest to detect extraterrestrial life. SETI needs a Dr. Ellie Arroway.
Judyth Piazza chats with Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer, S.E.T.I. Institute