Breakthrough Listen: taking SETI to the next level (science video).

Breakthrough Listen is a project to search for intelligent extraterrestrial communications in the universe. With $100 million in funding and thousands of hours of dedicated telescope time on state-of-the-art facilities, it is the most comprehensive search for alien communications to date. The project began in January 2016, and is expected to continue for 10 years. It is a component of Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Initiatives program.

The project uses radio wave observations from the Green Bank Observatory and the Parkes Observatory, and visible light observations from the Automated Planet Finder. Targets for the project include one million nearby stars and the centers of 100 galaxies. All data generated from the project are available to the public, and SETI@Home (BOINC) is used for some of the data analysis. The first results were published in April 2017, with further updates expected every 6 months.

The project aims to discover signs of extraterrestrial civilizations by searching stars and galaxies for radio signals and laser transmissions. The search for radio signals is carried out on the Green Bank Telescope in the Northern Hemisphere and the Parkes Telescope in the Southern Hemisphere. Together, the radio telescopes will cover ten times more sky than previous searches and scan the entire 1-to-10 GHz range, the so-called “quiet zone” in the spectrum where radio waves are unobscured by cosmic sources or Earth’s atmosphere.

The search for optical laser transmissions is carried out by the Automated Planet Finder of Lick Observatory. The telescope has the sensitivity to detect a 100 watt laser from a star 25 trillion miles away.

Breakthrough Listen was announced to the public on July 20, 2015 by Milner at London’s Royal Society. The event was attended by scientists such as Frank Drake and Geoff Marcy. The announcement included an open letter co-signed by multiple scientists, including physicist Stephen Hawking, expressing support for an intensified search for alien life.

The project is the most comprehensive search for alien communications to date. It is estimated that the project will generate as much data in one day as previous SETI projects generated in one year. Compared to previous programs, the radio surveys cover 10 times more of the sky, and the radio searches are 100 times more sensitive. The search for optical laser transmissions is 100 times more sensitive than previous efforts.

The project is funded by Yuri Milner, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, and is part of the Breakthrough Initiatives program. The science program is based at the Berkeley SETI Research Center.

The project is led by Andrew Siemion, director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center, and Pete Worden, former director of NASA Ames Research Center. The project is also supported by a scientific advisory board, which includes physicist Stephen Hawking and Frank Drake.

The first results of the project were published in April 2017. The results showed no evidence of intelligent signals from the target stars and galaxies. Further updates are expected every six months.

Breakthrough Listen: taking SETI to the next level (science video).


Colonel Frog is a long time science fiction and fantasy fan. He loves reading novels in the field, and he also enjoys watching movies (as well as reading lots of other genre books).

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