SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, had to stop search in April 2011, when a lack of funds forced it to shutter the Allen Telescope Array (ATA). The array of 42 radio dishes, each 20 feet wide, work together to scan the heavens for any alien signals coming from an intelligent civilization out in space. Due to the efforts of Jodie Foster and over 2,000 additional private donors, the institute was able to reach its goal of raising $200,000 to operate the telescope array through the end of the year.

Academy award winning actress and director Jodie Foster played the fictional SETI scientist Ellie Arroway in the 1997 movie “Contact.” In a note accompanying her donation, Foster stated that “the ATA is ‘good to go’ and we need to return it to the task of searching newly discovered planetary worlds for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.  The Allen Telescope Array could turn science fiction into science fact, but only if it is actively searching the skies.”

Constructed in 1997 and named after Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who funded its construction, the array is typically operated around the clock, and is supported by contributors to the SETIstars Fund, including Foster and science fiction writer Larry Niven. One of the fund’s other contributors, Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders, wrote “It is absolutely irresponsible of the human race not to be searching for evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence.”