Greg Klerkx, SETI Institute

Office – (650) 961-6633

Mobile – (415) 816-2310

E-mail –

Susan Pierson Brown, Paul G. Allen Charitable Foundation

Office – (425) 453-1940

E-mail –

Shelby Barnes, Intellectual Ventures (for Nathan Myhrvold)

Office – (425) 467-2303

E-mail –

Technologists Paul G. Allen and Nathan P. Myhrvold announce $12.5 million
in support for revolutionary new telescope to advance Search for Extra-
Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI); new instrument to be called Allen
Telescope Array, will also advance other astronomical research.

Mountain View, CA — Investor and philanthropist Paul G. Allen and former
Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Nathan P. Myhrvold will fund the
development phase of a new telescope that will be the world’s most
powerful instrument designed to seek out signals from civilizations
elsewhere in our galaxy.

Allen will provide $11.5 million and Myhrvold $1.0 million for a total gift
of $12.5 million over three years. The announcement was made by the SETI
Institute, the world’s largest private organization conducting research to
determine whether intelligent life exists beyond Earth. The Institute is a
nonprofit organization based in California’s Silicon Valley.

Today’s announcement follows the April unveiling of the first prototype of
the telescope, which is being designed jointly by astronomers and engineers
at the SETI Institute and the University of California-Berkeley. Announced
last year under a working title that described its 10,000 square meter
collecting area — the One Hectare Telescope — the project will be
renamed the Allen Telescope Array.

“For the first time in our history, we have the ability to pursue a
scientifically and technologically sophisticated search for intelligent life
beyond Earth at the same time we are doing traditional radio astronomy,”
said Allen, a long-time financial supporter of SETI and of scientific
research in a variety of fields. “This new telescope will be the world’s most
powerful instrument for this search, and I am pleased to support its
important work.”

The primary electronics laboratory to be built on site in support of the Allen
Telescope Array will be named for Myhrvold. A long-time SETI advocate,
Myhrvold was a member of the international ‘blue ribbon’ team of scientists
and technologists engaged in a two-year strategic planning effort in the late
1990s from which the Allen Telescope Array concept emerged.

“The Allen Telescope Array and associated laboratory are the latest steps
in our exploration of the cosmos,” said Myhrvold. “While the best scientific
estimates tell us the probability of intelligent life elsewhere in the
universe is fairly high, there is great uncertainty and some controversy in
the calculation. One thing however, is beyond dispute. That is, if we don’t
continue supporting projects like the Allen Telescope Array, our chances of
discovery will remain at zero. While it’s impossible to predict exactly what
we will find with a new scientific instrument, we should remember that
interesting science is not just about the likelihood of end results — it is
also about the serendipity that occurs along the way.”

“Paul and Nathan have understood from the beginning how exciting and
groundbreaking this telescope could be,” said Jill Tarter, director of SETI
research at the Institute. “They have contributed time and ideas to our work,
and now they are quite literally giving us the means to make it happen. We
are overjoyed, and we’re ready to move ahead.”

Scientists believe that radio waves, such as those commonly produced by
a variety of technologies on Earth and traveling at light-speed through
interstellar space, may offer the easiest way to detect evidence of a
technologically sophisticated civilization elsewhere in our galaxy. With
sufficient collecting area, it is possible to detect signals from a distant
technology that are no more powerful than those produced on Earth today.

Until now it was only practical to construct the collecting area for major
radio telescopes as a single enormous dish, such as the 1,000-foot-diameter
Arecibo Telescope, or as several large dishes whose electronic output is
combined. The 27 dishes of the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico, for
example, have about the same combined collecting area as a single
420-foot-diameter dish. Larger collecting areas are always desirable for
SETI because they can detect fainter signals.

The Allen Telescope Array will differ in practice, appearance and cost from
optical and radio telescopes currently in use. It will be constructed using
hundreds of mass produced small dishes. The telescope will incorporate
innovative technologies and modern, miniaturized electronics in concert
with large amounts of affordable computer processing. By doing so, it will
be possible for the Allen Telescope Array examine up to a dozen SETI target
stars simultaneously, and be sensitive to signals over a very wide range of

The Allen Telescope Array will also be a premium instrument for more
traditional research in radio astronomy. Simultaneous with SETI observing,
the electronic outputs from all the dishes can be combined to produce a high
spatial resolution image of a large area on the sky. Again simultaneously,
spectrometers or pulsar processors can study interstellar chemistry, the
structure of galactic magnetic fields, or the physics of rotating neutron

“This is a win-win situation,” said Tarter. “The Allen Telescope Array can
be used by both radio astronomers and SETI scientists all the time.”

Under current plans, the Allen Telescope Array will be developed in two
phases. The first phase began last year with the development of the
prototype unveiled in April and will culminate with a second, larger
prototype in early 2003, this one a true proof-of-concept that can conduct
SETI and radio astronomy research. At that point, with all the new
technologies proven, a second-stage technical and funding review will occur.

On its current development and construction timeline, the Allen Telescope
Array should be partially operational in 2004 and fully operational in 2005.
Including the near-term research and development phase, the total
estimated cost through construction of the Allen Telescope Array and
support facilities is $26 million.

The construction and operation site for the Allen Telescope Array will be
the Hat Creek Observatory, located 290 miles northeast of San Francisco on
a site operated by UC Berkeley’s Radio Astronomy Laboratory. The Hat Creek
Observatory is located in an area that is ‘radio quiet’, thereby reducing for
astronomers the level of interfering signals from man-made sources.

While pursuing the science and technology development for the Allen
Telescope Array, the SETI Institute will also focus on raising funds for
hardware and software upgrades anticipated during the telescope’s
operation. Thomas Pierson, Chief Executive Officer for the SETI Institute,
said an important goal is to provide long-term upgrade capability for the

“The Allen Telescope Array can be improved constantly, at relatively low
cost,” Pierson said. “For instance, the telescope can be made more powerful
by improving the software and incorporating new computing hardware,
which continues to get better and less expensive. It can also be made more
sensitive by adding more dishes to the array.

“An important next step is to ensure our ability to maximize the Allen
Telescope Array’s capabilities in the decades to come, and that will
require continued funding,” Pierson added.

To support the telescope’s long-term operational capability, the SETI
Institute announced that it is offering ‘stakes’ in the Allen Telescope
Array through which individuals and organizations can join Allen and
Myhrvold in the enterprise by naming individual telescope dishes in
perpetuity for a contribution of $50,000. Stakeholders will be recognized
with plaques placed at individual dishes, and in the proposed educational
center to be built in conjunction with the Allen Telescope Array.

Pierson reported that a dozen stakes have been committed to date.

All project funding to date, including the support of Allen and Myhrvold,
has been obtained under the direction of the SETI Institute. The Institute’s
Project Phoenix is currently the world’s largest privately supported radio
astronomy program, with an annual budget of more than $4 million. Project
Phoenix and its scientists are widely held to be the models for much of the
1997 film Contact, starring Jodie Foster.

Under the working title ‘One Hectare Telescope’, the Allen Telescope Array
is praised in the decadal ‘roadmap’ for U.S. astronomy and astrophysics
recently released by the National Academy of Sciences. In this document,
which informs U.S. science policy in these fields, the telescope is
described as an innovative approach to SETI that will also pioneer
techniques that could be used in the development of future generations of

About the Paul G. Allen Charitable Foundation

The Paul G. Allen Charitable Foundation supports a wide variety of charitable
endeavors in the Pacific Northwest. The Foundation is dedicated to promoting
the health and development of vulnerable populations and to strengthening
families and communities. The Foundation invests in projects and programs
that address social challenges and promote positive change. Past grant
recipients have included YMCA of Greater Seattle, The American Red Cross,
and Chicken Soup Brigade. Founded in 1988, The Paul G. Allen Charitable
Foundation is administered through Vulcan Northwest, Inc., of Bellevue,


[NOTE: Images supporting this release are available at]