SETI: Stephen Hawking’s $100 Million Search for Alien Life

By Phill Powell

When Stephen Hawking, the world’s most respected scientist, announces a major effort to find intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, people take notice. And when that initiative is funded by Yuri Milner, a Silicon Valley billionaire with a golden touch, it becomes major news.

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Yuri Milner (left) pays tribute to Frank Drake, who began the modern search for alien life in 1961. Drake attended the Breakthough Listen event (and is shown seated at table, second from left).

That’s why the scientific world was buzzing after a press event held by the Berkeley SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Research Center, which announced the biggest scientific push yet to discover an alien intelligence. That effort, “Breakthrough Listen,” is being underwritten by Russian investor Yuri Milner…to the tune of $100 million.

Interstellar Messaging
The 10-year initiative is called Breakthrough Listen because participating scientists will use powerful radio telescopes that can search through space for stray transmissions. According to Milner, there will be more data of this type gathered in a single day than could be collected during a full year of searches.

Milner said, “The idea is to bring a Silicon Valley approach to the search.” Breakthrough Listen will scan’s outer space’s “airwaves” and cover more than a million nearby stars, the galactic center, the entire Milky Way plane and an estimated one hundred nearby galaxies.

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Yuri Milner stated that Breakthrough Listen couldn’t have happened until now, when technological advances are making ultra-precise scientific instruments possible.

Next-Door Neighbors?
Hawking is passionate about the search for intelligent life through the universe, and has repeatedly stated his belief that there’s no question more important for science to answer than the possibilities of alien life.

“It’s time to commit to finding the answer to the search for life beyond earth,” the legendary physicist said at the event, pointing to the billions of inhabitable planets that technically could support life.

How to Help Look for Aliens
Milner also announced there will be a contest open to the public, with the goal of developing the perfect message that could be sent from Earth to deep space. Details about that contest will be announced at a later date, but there will be a total prize pool for that contest of $1 million.

Plus, space fans will also be able to join the effort through SETI home, a supercomputer network with more than 9 million users, who will take part in SETI-based discussions and even donate bandwidth for use in SETI.

Milner encouraged the public to have patience, because getting an answer from space could take time. The earliest we could have any real evidence would be around 2023…but it could take between 100,000 and 200,000 years to receive the radio signal that changes everything.

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Hawking: “It’s time to commit…”

Expand Your Horizons
This summer, kids ages 6-12 are expanding their horizons by attending space camp at Digital Media Academy’s great campus locations.

Kids love DMA tech camps because they get to take part in the coolest learning activities, with guidance from expert instructors. Plus, DMA gives kids time to make friends, hang out and have the greatest summer of their lives!