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The most intensive search for alien life yet is about to begin. The quest will start in January 2016, and will have top astronomers searching for advanced civilizations far beyond our solar system.
The project is so big that it will cover 10 times more sky than previous programs, being 50 times more sensitive than any other existing program dedicated to finding extraterrestrial life forms, and will scan 5 times more of the radio spectrum, 100 times faster.
The process consists in identifying radio emissions coming from beyond the Milky Way and other 100 neighboring galaxies. The program will include a review of about one million stars close to Earth, resulting in a massive scan of our galaxy and the entire galactic plane.
Researchers will use two of the world’s most complex telescopes in the US and Australia to scan the Milky Way and beyond. The Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia, considered the largest steerable telescope on the planet, and the Parkes Observatory in New South Wales, will be used by researchers in this unprecedented journey.
In tandem with the radio search, the Lick Observatory in California will undertake world’s deepest and broadest search for optical laser transmissions.
This initiative, under the name of BREAKTHROUGH LISTEN, will last for 10 years and has a financial background of $100 million.
Launched this summer, the BREAKTHROUGH LISTEN project has some of the world’s top researchers involved. Along with Cambridge cosmologist Stephen Hawking are Geoff Marcy, who has discovered the most planets beyond our solar system, Lord Martin Rees – the astronomer royal, and the seasoned astronomer Frank Drake.
Stephen Hawking declared that taking this step was “critically important” and the burdening question of whether we are alone in the universe or not might be answered into the near future.
It’s time to commit to finding the answer, to search for life beyond Earth. Mankind has a deep need to explore, to learn, to know. We also happen to be sociable creatures. It is important for us to know if we are alone in the dark.”
Warned by Hawking about shouting into the cosmos, because some advanced alien civilizations might have the same violent and destructive features found in humans, the team of scientists decided only to listen to other signals coming from the cosmos instead of sending a powerful one for aliens to intercept.
A civilization reading one of our messages could be billions of years ahead of us,” Hawking said. “If so they will be vastly more powerful and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.”
The effort for bringing the BREAKTHROUGH LISTEN project to life belongs to Yuri Milner, a Russian internet billionaire who dedicated his past few years to supporting mathematicians, physicists and biologists by giving them considerable prizes worth tens of millions of dollars for their work and achievements.
He is the sole founder of this astronomical project, investing 100 million dollars for it to go live.
It appears that humanity has lost hope in finding intelligent life forms in our solar system, that’s why we need to evolve and search forward.
We look across the landscape of the other worlds within our solar system, now including Pluto, and see no intelligent life. The worlds within our solar system show no city lights, no road systems, and no obelisks of generations long gone.”
Our loneliness within our solar system makes it natural to look beyond, to stars and galaxies, to search for communicative folks. We hope to learn if we are alone or if, instead, we may join a large collective of sentient beings with whom to share this universe.” – Geoff Marcy, University of California, Berkley
Because of the vast amount of data the three telescopes will collect, further investments are being made for the necessary processing equipment.
If you want to be part of this historical event, you can become one of the 9 million volunteers around the world who contribute with computer time to the SETI@home project – a scientific experiment that uses internet-connected computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
To add up to the awesomeness of this project, the software will be free, and all the radio signals picked up by the telescopes will be available to the public.