This week, the SETI Institute, which uses radio telescopes to search for signals that just may have emanated from another civilization, announced that the search for life has temporarily been supplanted by a search for funding. Financial difficulties are forcing the Allen Telescope Array at Hat Creek Observatory offline. The array consists of 42 antennas scanning the sky, and it's SETI's most powerful tool in pursuing its quest.
SETI's Dr. Jill Tarter, the inspiration for the Jodie Foster character in the novel and movie Contact, yesterday visited KQED and sat down with us for an interview. Below Tarter talks about the exciting planetary discoveries made by NASA's Kepler program; about the three times she thought they had detected a genuinely alien signal; and about what SETI would do if they confirmed that a signal was genuine. (They wouldn't reply until there was a global consensus.)
On the time she thought for 24 hours that a signal was actually from another civilization, which leaked to the Wall Street Journal