A new influx of money has saved the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) from collapse, but what does the future hold for our quest to discover intelligent life in the Universe?
In July 2015 Russian billionaire philanthropist Yuri Milner announced that his Breakthrough Prize Foundation would donate $100 million over the course of 10 years to fund the biggest SETI project ever attempted. Prior to this, the field of SETI had effectively been the pauper of the astronomical sciences, shorn of government funding and limping along thanks only to the generosity of public and private donations. At best, its global annual funding was $1.5 million. With Milner’s millions, everything has changed.
“This is the biggest infusion of money for SETI since the NASA SETI program, which was terminated by Congress in 1993,” says Seth Shostak, the senior astronomer and director of the research division at the SETI Institute, one of the world’s most prominent centers for SETI research, nestled in California’s Silicon Valley. “So, of course this is a major boost to the search.”
The Breakthrough Listen project, as it is known, intends to direct some of the largest radio telescopes in the world on a decade-long mission to find evidence of intelligent life. Already, the 64-meter Parkes radio telescope in Australia and the 100-meter Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia have been enlisted in the project to search the nearest million stars, which is three orders of magnitude more stars than before, as well as listen along the galactic plane of the Milky Way and to a hundred nearby galaxies for radio signals from another world.To read more, click here.