Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has donated $13.5m to the SETI institute to fund construction of a scalable, multi-use radio telescope array.
Allen said he was excited to be involved in seeking basic answers to fundamental questions about the universe and "what other civilizations may exist elsewhere".
The first phase of the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) will consist of 32, 6.1m dishes, and will have the most antennae of any observation platform in the cm wavelength range. Scientists will be able to start making observations as soon as this phase - the ATA-32 - is complete.
According to an announcement on the SETI home page, the ATA-32 will look toward the galactic anti-center to detect primordial deuterium, study dark matter in nearby dwarf galaxies, generate maps of molecular clouds, and conduct a SETI survey of the inner galaxy.
Dr. Jill Tarter, director of the center for SETI research at the Institute, said that being able to make observations around the clock was a "dream come true for any astronomer". She added that it would be especially exciting for the astronomers at the SETI institue, as they have been "constrained by limited time on other large centimeter wavelength telescopes".
The second phase will add a further 174 dishes, and when the array is completed later in the decade, it will have 350 dishes scanning the skies. ®