There’s already been a lot of articles about that news, so you have probably already heard that at the time being, SETI is not listening to the skies anymore, due to a lack of funds.
The Allen Telescope Array (ATA), a group of 42 radio telescopes, has been placed into hibernation. While this does not mean the end of SETI, which has a lot of ongoing projects, nobody is hunting for intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy. To help the ATA return to operations, everyone can contribute via their donation page.
Many people are asking why they should spend money on programs like SETI, and wonder if we need them. It is simply in our nature to be curious, and the question whether intelligent life exists elsewhere is among the most fascinating ones.
Some say we are all alone, and that if any other civilization, possibly much more advanced, was somewhere out there, contact would have already been made. Well, the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.
First, we have only scanned an extremely small part of our galaxy. Imagine yourself in a huge house: it’s as if you looked inside one of the rooms, saw that nobody’s here and concluded that the house is empty. In the case of SETI, the house is really, really big, and we have barely caught a glimpse through the front door’s keyhole.
Recently, NASA’s Kepler mission discovered many exoplanet candidates, some of which might be Earth-like planets (take a look here and here). And once again, only an extremely small portion of the sky has been observed. The next step for SETI and the Allen Telescope Array was to listen to these newly discovered worlds, and maybe catch an unusual signal.
We are at the dawn of a fascinating new era in astrophysics, discovering new worlds and maybe, one day, another Earth, where another civilization has emerged. Maybe we are alone, but that’s something we won’t ever be able to prove. So, should we miss the chance to find out that maybe we are not?
Some say: “Even if some other intelligent species exist, why would they try to communicate with other ones? Why should we be listening, when there might be nothing to hear?”. Because of all the civilizations that might inhabit our Universe, we know that one already tried to communicate with other intelligent species. Us.