The search for intelligent alien life got a major boost on Monday. Globally renowned physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner took the stage at the Royal Society in London to announce the Breakthrough Listen initiative. Yuri Milner pledged to inject $100 million from his personal fortune into the program dubbed as “the most comprehensive hunt for alien life.”
Breakthrough Listen is unprecedented in scale and scope
Stephen Hawking said at the press conference, “In an infinite universe, there must be other occurrences of life.” Breakthrough Listen is unprecedented in its scope and scale. The 10-year program will utilize two of the world’s most powerful telescopes: the Parkes Telescope in Australia, and the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. The initiative will also involve millions of people working together by donating their spare computing power to a worldwide network.
The University of California astronomer Geoffrey Marcy, who has discovered several exoplanets the right distance from their sun to support water, said alien life was possible in the universe. NASA has claimed repeatedly that the discovery of aliens was just a couple of decades away. However, nobody at the London press conference made any claims about finding alien life forms soon.
Breakthrough Listen: SETI to get thousands of hours a year on best telescopes
Yuri Milner said Breakthrough Listen would be the widest search ever for extraterrestrial life forms. The initiative will generate data in one day that would have taken over a year previously. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has been searching for alien life forms since 1960. Today, the group gets only 24-36 hours per year on a telescope. But now Breakthrough Listen will give them thousands of hours a year on the world’s best instruments.
Under Breakthrough Listen, astronomers will survey at least one million stars closest to Earth, and listen for radio signals from the 100 galaxies. Astronomers claim Breakthrough Listen telescopes are capable of detecting radio transmission with the power of an aircraft radar from 1,000 nearest stars. Meanwhile, others involved in the program will work to enhance our own signaling techniques to send a message out in the universe.