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Qualcomm scientist gives $3.5M to search for ET

SAN DIEGO — A co-founder and chief scientist of San Diego-based Qualcomm donated $3.5 million to improve the search for life on other planets, the SETI Institute announced Wednesday.

The Mountain View-based organization uses radio telescopes to search for unnatural signals. The gift from Franklin Antonio of Qualcomm will be used to double the sensitivity of an antenna feed from the Allen Telescope Array, a grouping of 350 telescopes about 300 miles north of San Francisco, according to SETI officials.

The antenna feed will be named after Antonio.

The telescopes are generally aimed toward stars where the existence of planets have been deduced by earthbound astronomers and through use of the Kepler telescope.

The institute also announced it will seek another $1 million in a fundraising campaign.

“Donations will help support our scientists to make a difference in the world,” said Jill Tarter, co-founder of the SETI Institute. “People who value creativity, education and technology support SETI Institute’s mission.”

A variety of efforts involving SETI, which stands for Search for Extra- Terrestrial Intelligence, took place during the 1970s and 1980s, but NASA pulled funding during the early 1990s, so current programs are run privately.