Observations at the Allen Telescope Array Interrupted

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Michael Watson

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Message 1889456 - Posted: 13 Sep 2017, 2:25:23 UTC
Last modified: 13 Sep 2017, 2:36:38 UTC

I look in daily at the website of the SETI Institute's Allen Telescope Array, which is called 'SETI Quest Info'. I like to see what they're working on.

I noticed that, instead of the usual daily observations, none have been reported since Sept. 6. I supposed this could be a technical fault, but the observer comments included on the site, which typically report on problems, make no mention of this. In fact. there have been no observer comments made since Sept. 2.

I left a message at the SETI Institute website, at the address provided for questions from the general public. I inquired about the missing observations, and when observing might resume. No reply was received.

I've speculated in the past on how a SETI discovery would affect the operation of the SETI Quest info website. They normally report in real time on what they're observing . Dwelling indefinitely on a particular star they deemed a promising SETI candidate would strongly suggest what was happening.

Would they want to reveal this information to the public before the evidence was repeatedly checked and independently confirmed? It seems not, given the published protocols for dealing with a SETI candidate signal.

The problem could be avoided by simply shutting off the website's access to what is being observed, and saying nothing, when asked about this.

Mind you, I'm not saying that is what is happening now. Some technical glitch, and everyone too busy coping with the situation to post an explanation, or reply to inquiries, is still a perfectly good possibility. It all does seem a little odd, though. . . .
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puh32

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Message 1889478 - Posted: 13 Sep 2017, 6:33:00 UTC - in response to Message 1889456.  

I can verify that you are correct - I, too, have wondered why they suddenly ceased updating the homepage/showing the live search.

Their log says "[2017-09-02 15:01:19] Observing paused for filming.", but surely they would not film for 10+ days?
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rob smithProject Donor
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Message 1889481 - Posted: 13 Sep 2017, 6:55:20 UTC

Who knows what "damage" a film crew can do....
Bob Smith
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Profile Jon Golding
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Message 1889500 - Posted: 13 Sep 2017, 10:20:08 UTC - in response to Message 1889456.  

What target were they observing before the "information blackout" and did they linger on this target more than usual?
It's most likely a glitch in the system somewhere...... probably.....
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Michael Watson

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Message 1889533 - Posted: 13 Sep 2017, 15:09:35 UTC
Last modified: 13 Sep 2017, 15:17:39 UTC

The remarks about a media visit suggest a brief session-- "Film crew this morning at the Allen Telescope Array filming before it gets hot, predicted 103 degrees F. today." That was dated Sept. 2, four days before the last updated record of observations. It wasn't made clear why observations should need to be suspended, merely because filming was going on.

I don't find any record of what was being observed at the moment the updates ceased. The Sept. 6 daily summary chart shows a number of targets across the sky. Whatever happened to put a stop to reports of observations might have occurred on Sept. 7.

I will note that the observers had been showing considerable, continuing interest in Fast Radio Burst 121102, the now well known repeating FRB, in Auriga. The last observer comment referring to a specific target mentioned this radio source. That remark was dated Aug. 31.

Still no reply to my inquiry to the SETI Institute, and nothing posted on the SETI Quest info website, by way of an explanation for the hiatus.
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Profile Jon Golding
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Message 1889711 - Posted: 14 Sep 2017, 10:41:04 UTC - in response to Message 1889533.  

There are various posts/analyses/conspiracies concerning the content of the recent FRBs.
Some fun signal processing has been done here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDTXtXARxfA
and here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBEQXgUyR2c
I have no idea whether these posts are 'genuine', but the source data files are available from a repository at Harvard https://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataset.xhtml?persistentId=doi:10.7910/DVN/QSWJE6
Breakthrough Listen state that an analysis of the latest FRBs will be the subject of a forthcoming paper http://www.breakthroughinitiatives.org/News/13
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Michael Watson

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Message 1889756 - Posted: 14 Sep 2017, 15:42:51 UTC - in response to Message 1889711.  
Last modified: 14 Sep 2017, 15:44:28 UTC

Thank you, Jon Golding, for sharing this information. The videos of a conspicuous train of regular pulses, interpreted as a series of discrete, descending audio tones, is quite striking. This aspect of the FRB 121102 signal certainly deserves further study.

Assuming these are shown to be faithful renderings of the FRB data, and not due to digital artifacts, they appear to suggest something quite remarkable. I will be looking further into this matter, and will report back here, with what I find.
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Jim1348

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Message 1889765 - Posted: 14 Sep 2017, 16:20:47 UTC

If SETI could help analyze these signals independently of the search for alien life, I would be quite interested. Maybe they can find some way of working with Green Bank on it. It would put their signal-processing capabilities to good use. But if SETI can only analyze based on the assumption of an extraterrestrial advanced civilization, I don't think so.
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Michael Watson

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Message 1889773 - Posted: 14 Sep 2017, 17:42:03 UTC

Someone from the Allen Telescope Array staff wrote the following observer comment about twenty minutes ago, on the SETI Quest info website:

"Hopefully we will be back to observing next week. There has been a power outage during a lightning storm. We are repairing some damaged computers."
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Profile Bob DeWoody
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Message 1889931 - Posted: 15 Sep 2017, 15:39:46 UTC - in response to Message 1889773.  

Appears to be a reasonable explanation. By now one of the other observatories has probably checked out what it was pointing to.
Bob DeWoody

My motto: Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow as it may not be required. This no longer applies in light of current events.
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Michael Watson

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Message 1889945 - Posted: 15 Sep 2017, 16:22:45 UTC - in response to Message 1889711.  

There are various posts/analyses/conspiracies concerning the content of the recent FRBs.
Some fun signal processing has been done here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDTXtXARxfA
and here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBEQXgUyR2c
I have no idea whether these posts are 'genuine', but the source data files are available from a repository at Harvard https://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataset.xhtml?persistentId=doi:10.7910/DVN/QSWJE6
Breakthrough Listen state that an analysis of the latest FRBs will be the subject of a forthcoming paper http://www.breakthroughinitiatives.org/News/13



I looked into the matter, as promised. The audio analysis of the impulses from FRB 121102 appears legitimate, and to be derived from the actual scientific data. The author of the audio interpretation of the data makes no claims or conclusions, merely offers it for what it's worth. Please find a link below to a detailed article by the author, on what he did, and his thoughts on the matter:

https://msdct.wordpress.com/2017/09/04/the-sounds-of-fast-radio-bursts-frb-121102-audio-analysis/
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Michael Watson

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Message 1890615 - Posted: 18 Sep 2017, 17:46:12 UTC
Last modified: 18 Sep 2017, 17:52:48 UTC

I checked this morning, and the Allen Telescope Array is still down. No further comments have been posted, to relate how the reported repairs are going, or if the tentative goal of being back in operation sometime during the week of Sept. 17--23 is still considered doable. The damage would have to have been substantial, considering that it hasn't been set right in 11 days.

One of the two webcam is up again, but with no time/date stamp. The daily summary chart of target stars observed is being updated, but since nothing is reportedly being observed, these are blank, except for the previous day's date.

I consulted the National Weather Service records for September 7. They confirm thunderstorm activity, at least in the general area of the radio observatory. The nearest reporting station is at the Redding, California airport, about 70 miles away.
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Michael Watson

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Message 1891571 - Posted: 23 Sep 2017, 20:23:23 UTC

Earlier today, the Allen Telescope Array website SETI Quest Info had a new observer comment. It indicated that repairs were nearly finished, and that observing should resume soon. In just the last half hour, I found that they are observing again, and reporting what they're observing on a real-time basis.
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Michael Watson

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Message 1893842 - Posted: 7 Oct 2017, 15:46:58 UTC
Last modified: 7 Oct 2017, 15:50:30 UTC

Just when it seemed that the Allen Telescope Array was again working smoothly, after last month's lightning damage, a new issue has arisen.
No observations were reported for Oct. 4th, an atypically small number, only three, on the the 5th, and none on the 6th.
The live information on the 4th & 5th indicated that they were observing the sky location of the famous 'wow signal' , as they have done many times before. For some reason, these observations did not appear in the daily summary charts of observations, for those dates. No live reports of observations were seen yesterday, the 6th, merely the sort of technical procedures preparatory to observations.
Currently, there are no observations being reported for Oct. 7th, though it is typical for the ATA to do SETI work on weekends, both day and night.

Is this all due to lingering effects from the lightning damage, or some new technical fault, or something else? The proximate observations of the wow signal site is intriguing, at least. This situation appears to bear watching.
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Michael Watson

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Message 1894139 - Posted: 8 Oct 2017, 19:11:26 UTC

Today, again, none of the usual signs of activity at the Allen Telescope Array, no observations at all reported for yesterday, and no observer notes or other information to explain the situation.

The adage that lightning never strikes in the same place twice is a myth. I checked the weather archives to see if it was possible that the ATA had been struck again by lightning. I found no evidence of thunderstorms or other adverse weather on Oct. 4th thru the 7th, it the area, so this explanation for the hiatus is apparently out.

I will submit a question about this to the SETI Institute, but as my inquiry about the September outage was entirely ignored, I don't hold out much hope of an answer. If there is a reply I will share it, here.
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Michael Watson

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Message 1894387 - Posted: 9 Oct 2017, 20:58:27 UTC

Nothing heard from the the Allen Telescope Array, for yet another day. No observations were reported for Sunday, Oct. 8th, or, so far, for the 9th.

My inquiry to the SETI Institute about this matter went unanswered. Perhaps the person who answers, when someone poses an inconvenient question, is on vacation.
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Message 1894409 - Posted: 9 Oct 2017, 21:46:27 UTC

Interesting thread. Will check back in. Thanks for the info and detective work.
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Michael Watson

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Message 1894460 - Posted: 10 Oct 2017, 2:03:43 UTC
Last modified: 10 Oct 2017, 2:58:34 UTC

Saw the following observer note, late today, at the SETI Quest info website. This is the site that normally has information about what the Allen Telescope Array is currently aimed at : "Still no observations tonight, Hope to have a hardware issue fixed tomorrow."
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Michael Watson

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Message 1894518 - Posted: 10 Oct 2017, 23:20:52 UTC
Last modified: 10 Oct 2017, 23:21:51 UTC

The Allen Telescope Array is now being used to make observations, and these are being reported in real time, at this hour. No explanation of what sort of 'hardware issue' caused the observatory to be down for a week.
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Michael Watson

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Message 1894602 - Posted: 11 Oct 2017, 12:49:00 UTC

The Allen Telescope Array website, SETI Quest info, is now reporting that the technical fault that caused them to cease observing for about a week, had to do with one of three 'beamformers'.

These devices allow the observers to focus the dish antennas on one small part of the sky at a time. They are currently observing with only two beamformers while the third is being repaired. It wasn't made clear why this wasn't also done over the past week, instead of ceasing observations altogether.
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Message boards : SETI@home Science : Observations at the Allen Telescope Array Interrupted


 
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