New search launches for life outside Earth

Jul 20, 2015, 3:22 PM EDT
DST Global Founder Yuri Milner, Theoretical Physicist Stephen Hawking, Cosmologist and astrophysicist Lord Martin Rees, Chairman Emeritus, SETI Institute Frank Drake, Creative Director of the Interstellar Message, NASA Voyager Ann Druyan and Professor of Astronomy, University of California Geoff Marcy attend a press conference on the Breakthrough Life in the Universe Initiatives, hosted by Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking, at The Royal Society on July 20, 2015 in London, England.
Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for Breakthrough Initiatives

The Russian technology entrepreneur and millionaire Yuri Milner has launched a project called "Breakthrough Listen" that will devote the next 10 years, and $100 million of his money, to searching for intelligent life in the universe elsewhere than Earth. The Financial Times reports:

Is anyone out there? Astronomers’ search for signals from intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, unsuccessful for the past 55 years, is entering a new phase with a $100m commitment to intensify the effort over the next decade.
 
The search for extraterrestrial intelligence, known as Seti, was relaunched on Monday at the Royal Society in London, with funding from Silicon Valley internet entrepreneur Yuri Milner, through his Breakthrough foundation.
 
Scientists supporting the new Seti initiative include Stephen Hawking, the cosmologist, Lord Rees, the UK Astronomer Royal, and Frank Drake of Cornell University, the grandfather of Seti, who started listening for ET radio signals in 1960 at the Green Bank observatory in West Virginia.
 
Speaking at the launch, Professor Hawking and Lord Rees said the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence was the biggest question in 21st century science.
 
“It’s time to commit to finding the answer — to search for life beyond earth,” Prof Hawking said. “We are alive. We are intelligent. We must know.”
 
 
On Monday at The Royal Society in London, Milner announced that he would spend $100 million over the next 10 years funding the search for extraterrestrial life.
 
His plan is called "Breakthrough Listen." It will employ 25 people, two humongous radio telescopes, and a third telescope sensitive to laser communication coming from the galaxy around us.
 
Milner will rent the telescopes out and point them at likely homes for life all around the cosmos. Teams of researchers will process the results. Milner's teams will share their data, and their software, with the world so amateurs can help.
 
One telescope is in the Northern Hemisphere. It's called the Green Bank Telescope. It's in West Virginia. It's so sensitive that Federal law prohibits the use of cellphones within 100 miles of it.
 
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