British cosmologist Stephen Hawking has lent his
giant brain support to a AU$135 million initiative by a Russian billionaire to find signs of intelligent life in a galaxy far, far away.
Officially the biggest-ever search for extra-terrestrials, the Breakthrough Initiatives project, funded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Yuri Milner, involves two initiatives over a 10-year period.
The first, launched by Hawking and other science bigwigs in London overnight, is called Breakthrough Listen, and will use some of the biggest telescopes on Earth (including one right here in Australia, the Parkes Telescope in NSW), as well as listening devices and ‘scanners’, to survey the 1 million stars closest to Earth in the hopes of discovering E.T and family.
Speaking at the launch event at the Royal Society science academy in London overnight, Hawking said:
“In an infinite universe, there must be other occurrences of life. Somewhere in the cosmos, perhaps, intelligent life may be watching these lights of ours, aware of what they mean. Either way, there is no bigger question. It’s time to commit to finding the answer, to search for life beyond Earth. We must know.”
Here’s why they reckon it’ll work:
– The team will have access to two of the world’s most powerful telescopes – the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, USA, and the Parkes Telescope in NSW.
– The search will cover 10 times more of the sky than previous programs.
– The other gadget thingys they’ve got hold of will scan at least 5 times the average radio spectrum, and 100 times faster.
– In tandem with a radio search, Automated Planet Finder Telescope at Lick Observatory in California, USA, will undertake the world’s deepest and broadest search for optical laser transmissions.
LASERS, YOU GUYS.
Hawking isn’t the only famous name to through his weight behind the project: Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy, lends his voice to the promotional video, which – side note – looks a shit-ton like the trailer for Interstellar #justsaying.
The second stage of the project, called Breakthrough Message, will fund an “international competition to generate messages representing humanity and planet Earth, which might one day be sent to other civilisations”.
So, E.T, expect a handwritten note from us some time in the next few centuries, yeah?
Images via Getty