The SETI Institute has been forced to temporarily shut down operations at its telescope array due to federal and state funding cutbacks.

The Allen Telescope Array, composed of dozens of radio dishes 300 miles northeast of San Francisco, was put into a state of hibernation last week. The telescope array is operated by both SETI and the University of California at Berkeley, who have been using the radio dishes to search for signs of extraterrestrial life since 2007.

SETI chief executive Tom Pierson said the institute was working on numerous efforts to insure the telescope array came back online, including work for the United States Air Force.

Operating the telescope array costs about $1.5 million a year, according to The Associated Press.

SETI has other telescope arrays at its disposal, but the Allen Telescope Array is the biggest and, unlike other facilities, is dedicated to the institute's operations.

The shutdown comes after NASA announced that its space telescope Kepler had discovered 1,235 new possible planets, some of which were in the "habitable zone," where liquid water could exist.

"There is a huge irony that a time when we discover so many planets to look at, we don't have the operating funds to listen," SETI Director Jill Tarter told Mercury News.

Image courtesy of Colby Gutierrez-Kraybill