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The array's first phase of 42 telescopes was completed this year. To build the full observatory, the SETI Institute will need a lot more money. (Seti Institute)

Can We Hear Them Now?

Speak up, space aliens. These 42 new radio telescopes are all ears.

It’s hard to predict if or when that day will come. But should the ATA scientists ever hear a signal and verify independently (and in confidence) that it’s not from Earth, here’s what would happen: First they’d have their own private celebration. Every time the Phoenix team lugged its equipment to a radio telescope in Puerto Rico or Australia, says Tarter, “we always brought along champagne and kept it on ice.” Then, as a courtesy, they would inform the major ATA donors. After that, they’d e-mail an official notice to the scientific community describing the discovery. They’d also send off a scientific paper to an astrophysics journal. Much of that paper is already written; only the details are missing.

Then they’d call a press conference.

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