Take a Tour Around the Telescope Array Where We're Searching for Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life

More

An interactive panoramic view of the place where scientists are hoping to make the first human contact with alien life

"When we get evidence of intelligent life out there, it's going to come through Hat Creek. That's going to be the place, " says Ron Barrett of Alameda, California, the photographer behind this interactive panoramic of the Allen Telescope Array. The 42 radio telescopes are pointed at the skies over the town of Hat Creek in northern California.

Barrett visited Hat Creek in January at the invitation of Jill Tarter, the director of the Center for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Research who announced her retirement earlier this week. When Barrett arrived at the site, all of the radio-telescope dishes were pointed down for maintenance. Barrett asked for them to rotate for the pictures and, "It was like being God. All of the sudden all of these things were pointed to the sky," Barrett says. During Barrett's tour of the site, Gerry Harp -- who is to succeed Tarter -- told him he believed that a signal from intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy could come "at any time" now, and that with new evidence from NASA's Kepler mission to find habitable planets, they were able to better train the telescopes on promising sites in the galaxy. Barrett recalls, "I said to him, we're up here alone, just the two of us. But when you get that signal, this place is going to be inundated with people, selling t-shirts and checking it out. This place is destined to be a national shrine."

To make the image, Barrett shot some 340 separate photographs with his camera on a special tripod mount that allows him to make precise incremental adjustments to the camera's position.

Play around with the shot, expand it to the full screen, and be sure to point it to the skies. Think about this remote outpost of human civilization in the hills of northern California, and that first contact it may one day make. "It would probably be one of the most Earth-shaking developments in the history of mankind," says Barrett. "And it's going to happen. We're right on the cusp of it."



Thanks to Ross Andersen for the tip. Ron Barrett can be reached here.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Time JFK Called the Air Force to Complain About a 'Silly Bastard'

51 years ago, President John F. Kennedy made a very angry phone call.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In