Paul Allen's SETI array was powered up yesterday. Currently with 42 6-meter dishes in operation, the final product will have 350 antennas (antennae?), capable in total of scanning over 1 million star systems in the hope of finding some kind of intelligent life out there. Since the Hat Creek, California, telescope station is jointly run by SETI and the Radio Astronomy Laboratory at UC Berkeley, it will be used to study other phenomena as well, such as black holes, supernovas (supernovae?) and "exotic astronomical objects." (Insert yo mama's butt, US defense expenditures or Google stock price joke here.) [BBC News; photo from Forefront]
Indeed, antennae and supernovae. In fact, the plural of the abbreviation of supernova (SN) is SNe. Weird, huh?
I love the idea that the ATA was just 'switched on', and made that "vwwwwrrrr!" sound for the first time and we started pointing it at stuff. They've been taking data with it (in various states of construction) for months now, kicking the tires, working out the kinks.
The cool thing about the ATA is it is proof-of-concept for the large-number of antennae, small diameter (LNSD) radio interferometer concept. If you look at the VLA (think Jodie Foster with headphones on in Contact) it's got 27 elements, each of which are 25 meters across. Back then it was too computationally expensive to do LNSD - so thank you Moore's Law.