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.

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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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