Telescopes looking for extra terrestrial intelligence should re-open within weeks after donors replaced income lost in public funding cuts.
The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, had to shut the £18m Allen Telescope Array in April but donors have since raised more than £120,000 with more than 2,400 people contributing to the fund. Donors include the likes of actress Jodie Foster who played the lead role of an astronomer looking for evidence of aliens in the 1997 film Contact. Amongst other donors was the Apollo 8 astronaut, Bill Anders.
The 42 radio telescopes, in northern California, search space for potential signals from alien life forms.
The SETI Institute says the fund should be enough to keep the telescopes operating until the end of 2011. The plan is still dependent on the institute receiving money from the US Air Force to help track space debris that could damage satellites.
SETI is hoping to raise more money to contribute to the £1.5m annual operating and staffing costs of the telescopes and keep them going beyond the end of this year. Ultimately the plan is to use the array to observe planets outside our own Solar System.
The array also contributes to research into black holes, pulsars and magnetic fields in the Milky Way.
Source: BBC News