July 20, 2015

New $100 Breakthrough Initiative version of SETI from Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking will be 50 times more sensitive

A new $100 million “Breakthrough Initiatives” program from Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking, was unveiled today at the Royal Society in London. Drake, as well as Ann Druyan, Martin Rees, Geoff Marcy, and Pete Worden were also on hand for the announcement; all will have various leadership roles in the initiatives.

The program will consist of two main pieces. The first, Breakthrough Listen, will employ the 100-meter Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, and the 64-meter Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia, two of the most powerful telescopes on the planet, over a period of 10 years. The search will be 50 times more sensitive than any SETI program before it, cover 10 times the sky of previous programs, involve the 1,000,000 stars closest to Earth, and scan five times as much radio spectrum 100 times faster than before. It will also search for laser transmissions.

In addition to the above, the telescopes will scan the center of our galaxy, as well as listen for messages from the 100 closest galaxies to us — “closest” being a relative term, since even the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), the nearest, is two million light years away.

“It’s a dream come true,” says Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center and another leader on the initiative. The key purchase will be thousands of hours per year of observation time on two of the world’s most powerful radio telescopes, the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia. (A specialized optical telescope at the Lick Observatory in California is also involved.) They will scan the entire 1-to-10 gHz range, the so-called “quiet zone” in the spectrum where radio waves are unobscured by cosmic sources or Earth’s atmosphere; presumably, intelligent aliens will know to broadcast in this zone if they want anyone to hear them.

SOURCES- Wired, Extreme Tech

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