After one day of re-observing promising radio sources at the Arecibo radio telescope, the SETI@home project has been bumped from the telescope's observing schedule until next Monday, March 24, 2003, so that researchers can observe a rare solar flare.
Dan Werthimer, Chief Scientist of SETI@home, said, "It happens about once every two years at Arecibo that they have to bump everyone so they can observe a flare." The change in plans was caused by the eruption of two solar flares on Monday and Tuesday (March 17 and 18) of this week. Similar events in the past have been known to interfere with communications and global positioning satellites.
Seti@home's "Stellar Countdown" got underway on March 18 at Arecibo. During an eight hour session the SETI@home team observed 52 candidate radio sources and 30 other objects, including nearby stars, galaxies, and stars known to possess extrasolar planets. The team wants to re-observe up to 150 of the most interesting radio sources found out of the billions detected since the distributed computing project began to search for extraterrestrial intelligence in May 1999. The team will observe a further 1 1/2 hours today and reschedule the remaining 15 hours of observing time on March 24.
The Planetary Society is the founding and principal sponsor of SETI@home, which is based at the University of California, Berkeley. SETI@home harnesses the computing power of four million volunteers to analyze data from the Arecibo telescope. Designed as an innovative screensaver program, SETI@home parcels out packets of raw data from Arecibo to be processed in the personal computers of volunteers around the world.