SETI is once again listening for E.T.

Dr. Frank Drake, author of the famous Drake Equation, estimates there are at least 10,000 advanced civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy alone. Drake came up with this equation more than 50 years ago, at a time when astronomers weren’t even sure there were planets beyond our solar system. Now that we have observational evidence of more than a thousand planets orbiting other stars — and there is reason to believe that most of the 200 billion or more stars in the Milky Way host planetary systems — Drake’s estimate doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

However, contact with any advanced civilizations that may be out there may depend on whether we here on Earth are listening. One group that’s been listening for decades is SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), but their efforts were halted last year due to a lack of funding. Thanks to donations solicited through its website — including a sizable donation from actress Jodie Foster — SETI is now back up and running at the Allen Array in Hat Creek, California, and it plans to keep listening for as long as funding holds out. Negotiations are currently underway for the U.S. Air Force to share the array for tracking satellites and space junk, which would give the SETI program the financial stability it needs to continue for the foreseeable future.

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