Russian billionaire Yuri Milner has made a donation of $100 million to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligent (SETI) Institute to aid in the search for alien life. Milner believes that civilizations outside of Earth may be able to help humans handle challenges like allocating natural resources.
SETI is an organization fully dedicated to searching for extraterrestrial intelligence. If signs of life outside our planet are found, SETI researchers intend to send a confident message out into space in hopes of making contact with an extraterrestrial source.
The donation from Yuri Milner will fund the Breakthrough Listen Project at the University of California-Berkeley. The project should allow SETI more dedicated time on radio telescopes that otherwise they would only have access to for a day or two every year. The project will also utilize the computing power of millions of PCs in people’s homes and offices all over the world.
Peter Worden, who previously directed the NASA Ames Research Center, will lead the team of scientists working on the Breakthrough Listen Project. The team will organize any radio signals they find, examine the data for patterns, and make whatever data they collect public.
Members of the public will be able to download a computer program enabling them to sift through the radio signals collected by the telescopes in search of something significant. Worden’s team released a statement, saying, “This is likely to produce the largest amount of scientific data ever made available to the public.”
Of course, there’s no telling how long ago any radio signal the Breakthrough Listen Project receives may have been transmitted. It takes four years for radio signals to travel between Earth and the nearest star outside our solar system. Milner believes his donation will allow us to listen to radio transmissions from our Milky Way galaxy and the 100 closest galaxies within ten years.
The Breakthrough Listen Project has the backing of Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking, despite his past remarks about the dangers of coming into contact with extraterrestrial species. Hawking said about the project, “It’s time to commit to finding the answer to search for life beyond Earth. The Breakthrough Initiate is making that commitment.”