SETI Is Going Big Time

This news article is so good you’ll want to read it all for yourself. It’s Stephen Hawking launches $100m search for alien life beyond solar system , in the UK’s Guardian.

It’s about SETI — the Search for extraterrestrial intelligence — on steroids. We’ll give you only a few excerpts to encourage you to click over to the Guardian to read it all. The bold font was added by us:

Astronomers are to embark on the most intensive search for alien life yet by listening out for potential radio signals coming from advanced civilisations far beyond the solar system. Leading researchers have secured time on two of the world’s most powerful telescopes in the US and Australia to scan the Milky Way and neighbouring galaxies for radio emissions that betray the existence of life elsewhere. The search will be 50 times more sensitive, and cover 10 times more sky, than previous hunts for alien life.

You’re hooked, aren’t you? Here’s more:

The Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia, the largest steerable telescope on the planet, and the Parkes Observatory in New South Wales, are contracted to lead the unprecedented search that will start in January 2016. In tandem, the Lick Observatory in California will perform the most comprehensive search for optical laser transmissions beamed from other planets.

Operators have signed agreements that hand the scientists thousands of hours of telescope time per year to eavesdrop on planets that orbit the million stars closest to Earth and the 100 nearest galaxies. The telescopes will scan the centre of the Milky Way and the entire length of the galactic plane.

There’s not much to be done about an intelligence in another galaxy, but if we’ve got the search capability, then why not listen for it anyway? Let’s read on:

Launched on Monday at the Royal Society in London, with the Cambridge cosmologist Stephen Hawking, the Breakthrough Listen project has some of the world’s leading experts at the helm. Among them are Lord Martin Rees, the astronomer royal, Geoff Marcy, who has discovered more planets beyond the solar system than anyone, and the veteran US astronomer Frank Drake, a pioneer in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (Seti).

As most of you know, Drake is responsible for the Drake equation, which Wikipedia says is “used to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy.” Conspicuously absent from this all-star lineup are ol’ Hambo and the Discoveroids. Perhaps they’ll have something critical to say. The Guardian continues:

Stephen Hawking said the effort was “critically important” and raised hopes for answering the question of whether humanity has company in the universe. “It’s time to commit to finding the answer, to search for life beyond Earth,” he said. “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.”

Where’s the money coming from? We’re told:

The alien hunters are the latest scientists to benefit from the hefty bank balance of Yuri Milner, a Russian internet billionaire, who quit a PhD in physics to make his fortune. In the past five years, Milner has handed out prizes worth tens of millions of dollars to physicists, biologists and mathematicians, to raise the public profile of scientists. He is the sole funder of the $100m Breakthrough Listen project.

That’s only the beginning of the article. It’s all good, but now you’re on your own. Read it, and then tell us what you think.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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6 responses to “SETI Is Going Big Time

  1. Vulcanthunder

    It’s great that this is being funded by a Russian billionaire but why are the US billionaires like the Koch brothers not doing projects like this? I guess they are too busy trying to buy the election.

  2. It would probably be better to avoid the center of the galaxy, since the galaxy’s goldylocks zone really is 2/3 of the way from the galactic center.

  3. If intelligent life were discovered elsewhere in the universe, creationists would either (1) consider it a hoax; (2) call it “demonic” or (3) insist that it, too, had been “intelligently designed” and that, being in the “image of God” like humans, it would look just like us.

  4. Charles Deetz ;)

    Not much to hear, I’m afraid, but it does seem worth listening. Worse has been done with 100MM.

  5. Though I do not like the Koch brothers and their political activities, David Koch contributes to and supports the PBS Nova science show.

  6. David Koch has also given millions to the Smithsonian, for the wonderful Hall of Human Origins and the soon to be wonderful Dinosaur exhibit renovation.