A Russian billionaire just donated $100 million to help find alien life
During an event at the Royal Society in London earlier today, Yuri Milner was joined on stage by Prof Stephen Hawking, the physicist, cosmologist, and all-round clever man, to announce a new 10-year initiative designed to help find intelligent life throughout the universe.
The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, has been an ongoing endeavor of scientific research for decades, however it has hitherto been overshadowed by more “tangible” exploration ventures, such as NASA’s recent Pluto flyby.
Though big-name bodies have dedicated time and resources to tracking electromagnetic radiation for transmissions, including the University of California, Berkeley, Harvard, and the not-for-profit SETI Institute, today’s news represents one of the biggest boosts yet for SETI, and its single biggest cash donation ever.
There are various facets to the program, but the so-called “Breakthrough Listen” element promises to expand coverage of the heavens ten-fold, and will track around one million of our closest stars for messages.
Spread across the ten-year study period, the $100 million investment will be used towards garnering access to the Parkes Telescope in Australia, and West Virginia’s Green Bank Telescope. Such access has been heavily restricted to SETI scientists given that these radio telescopes are in high demand across the broader astronomy fraternity. In effect, scientists will now have thousands of hours each year to use the telescopes, as opposed to a day-and-a-half.
To help engage the public, the project will also run a competition to see who can come up with the best digital messages that best represent life on Earth, with $1 million up for grabs.