SETI’s Telescope Array Kept Alive By Donations From Many, Including Actor Jodie Foster

The desire for extra-terrestrial contact is too much to resist. The Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, California, suffered a big blow a few months ago, when its main array of radio-telescope the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) was put out of operation due to budget cuts both from the Centre and the State. However, a week ago it was revived and it’s doing what it does best look out for radio signals from outer space.

SETI’s ATA: Fresh hopes

SETI’s ATA was handed a new lease of life by numerous donors, who shelled out large amounts and helped SETI reach its campaign goal of $200,000. It ended up with a collection of $223,000 thanks to 2557 donors. One of the star donors was Jodie Foster, actor in the female lead in the film Contact’. Her donation amount however, is not known.

The Movie

In the movie, Foster played a very passionate and extremely gifted scientist, who goes from pillar-to-post searching for funds when the initial funds for her Radio Telescope expedition suddenly dry up. When she receives periodic signals from an unmistakably alien intelligence source, she suddenly gets the attention of the science community. Contact! Who can possibly forget the frenetic passion enthused by Foster when she hears the first Contact – a periodic metallic ring buzzing on her laptop? Watch it here.

Deciphering the coded message, the science community builds a device, which is tested by Foster. It turns out to be a device, which creates a wormhole. When she relates this experience, no one believes her and even the scientist in her doubts it! Based on the book by the same name written by Carl Sagan, Contact is scientifically accurate both in fact and spirit. (I would personally recommend it!)


Foster, like her character in the movie, says that the ATA is too good to go. The telescopes:

could turn science fiction into science fact, but only if it is actively searching the skies. I support the effort to bring the array out of hibernation.

The ATA was founded based on a grand fund donated by Paul Allen. SETI realises the need to find new and long-term sources of funding.

One momentous discovery can turn it around for SETI. Everyone hopes that the movie-like beep-beep-beep’ can pull it out of the forced slumber.

Published by

Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.