A new receiver for alien broadcasts

Astronomers scanning the heavens for radio signals of intelligent alien life have only a handful of telescopes for their vast search. Last month, the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., received a $12.5 million grant from former Microsoft executive Nathan P. Myrhvold and company cofounder Paul G. Allen to build the biggest telescope ever designed for such studies.

The Allen Telescope Array will consist of several hundred small radio telescopes with a total collecting area of 10,000 square meters. To be built at Hat Creek Radio Observatory in California, the array should begin operating in 2005 and will also be used for more-traditional research in radio astronomy.

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