Stephen Hawking's 'Breakthrough Listen' Initiative Launches All-Out Endeavor to Find Intelligent Alien Life

Wednesday, 09 May 2018 - 11:53AM
Space
Astrophysics
Wednesday, 09 May 2018 - 11:53AM
Stephen Hawking's 'Breakthrough Listen' Initiative Launches All-Out Endeavor to Find Intelligent Alien Life
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What do Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner, physicist extraordinaire Stephen Hawking (RIP), and Facebook mastermind Mark Zuckerberg all have in common? They are all founders of Breakthrough Listen, a project to scan radio frequencies across the galaxy to find evidence of intelligent life. The ten year-old project is considered our best hope at finding extraterrestrial civilizations, and its next big move is a $100 million plan to search the Milky Way's billions of stars using the CSIRO Parkes Radio Telescope. 

The new project began on May 7th, starting with stars just a few light-years away from Earth. By the end, the project aims to scan all the way to the Galactic Center. According to an official press release:

Opening quote
"The chaotic environment at the very center of the Galaxy is probably not well suited to the emergence of life as we know it, but the region surveyed by Breakthrough Listen covers a huge slice of the Milky Way, containing tens of billions of stars, including many that lie between us and the Galaxy's heart."
Closing quote


The new project will last 1,500 hours and pull in almost 100 petabytes of data (1,000,000 gigabytes = 1 petabytes) and will focus on picking up radio signals from alien civilizations across millions of channels, as well as filtering out human-made radio signals (like the ones from satellites and smartphones).

According to Danny Price, a Parkes Project Scientist with Breakthrough Listen: "With these new capabilities, we are scanning our Galaxy in unprecedented detail. By trawling through these huge datasets for signatures of technological civilizations, we hope to uncover evidence that our planet, among the hundreds of billions in our Galaxy, is not the only one where intelligent life has arisen."

The Breakthrough Listen project comes on the heels of the ESA's Gaia satellite's huge dump of information, which included an uber-precise star map of the Milky Way. Like the Gaia data, the data received from the Parkes Telescope will be made available to scientists, researchers, and the public so that they can trawl through it on their own. If you manage to find evidence of an alien civilization in that huge chunk of information, we're pretty sure that qualifies you to be present when we establish contact.

But if Stephen Hawking is right (he usually is), we should hope and pray we never make contact.

Science
NASA
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Astrophysics
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