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Northern California wildfires put search for alien life on hold

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Monday, August 11, 2014, 7:40 PM - SETI's Allen Telescope Array in northern California has gone offline as wildfires burn in the region, threatening the search for alien life.

The last transmission from the area's webcam -- sent on August 2 at 7:43 p.m. -- looks "like the beginning of a found footage horror movie," Popular Science says. The eerie image shows SETI's 42 satellites surrounded by dark smoke as fire closes in.

The Allen Telescope Array is dedicated to scanning the universe for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. Now run by a non-profit research institute, the array went online in October 2007 and has been operating on and off ever since.

Located in Hat Creek, California, it is in between the Eiler and Bald fires, which have torched a combined 250 square kilometres of land.

Image of the telescope array's last transmission.

The Eiler fire has damaged eight homes and two fire engines, prompting the evacuation of homes and one hospital.

Meanwhile, the Bald fire is closing in on the telescope array but, since it is in a cleared section of land, the possibility of significant damage is reduced.Several wildfires are tearing through northern California, fueled by abnormally dry conditions.

On Sunday, lightning strikes helped spark at least nine separate blazes, with forecasters calling for additional lightning Monday and Tuesday.

RELATED: The lawn wars: California drought sparks peculiar behaviour 

Approximately 52,000 hectares were burning across the state Monday morning according to California fire officials.

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