Breakthrough Initiatives, a program founded by Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner and his wife artist Julia Milner, is about to get pretty serious in the search for extraterrestrial life.
Breakthrough Initiatives, along with Stephen Hawking, astrophysicist Martin Rees, astronomers Frank Drake and Geoff Marcy and ‘Cosmos’ producer Ann Druyan, have announced a $100 million pledge to embark on a 10-year search effort to seek out life beyond the Solar System.
“In an infinite universe, there must be other occurrences of life,” Hawking stated at the announcement at the Royal Society in London. “It’s time to commit to finding the answer, for the search for life beyond Earth. We are life, we are intelligent, we must know.”
The initiative is divided into two parts, Breakthrough Listen and Breakthrough Message. Breakthrough Listen will employ the Green Bank Telescope, the Parkes Telescope and the Lick Telescope to detect light signals and optical laser transmissions that could possibly be indicative of an advanced civilization. Not only will they be searching for life in the Milky Way but also throughout 100 neighboring galaxies. This search is 10 times larger than any previous search.
Geoff Marcy explained that because they have no idea what frequencies of light civilizations may be emitting, scientists may have to sift through 10 billion frequencies to find anything that jumps out. However, this vast amount of data will be available for free online where scientists and anyone else can help with search efforts.
Breakthrough Message is a global competition where people can create digital messages for Earth to possibly send out to alien life that may be searching for us. However, Milner states that this not a guarantee a winning entry will be broadcasted. There are certainly many ethical and philosophical concerns to consider. Plus, as Druyan explains, we may need to be prudent about what messages we send. Should we attempt to make a good first impression or should we be transparent about humanity’s flaws?
Details about how you can be involved with Breakthrough Initiatives will be announced at a later date. Learn more about Breakthrough Initiatives.