Breakthrough Listen, the largest project destined for the search of alien life, has been scouring our galaxy with the help of the CSIRO Parkes Radio Telescope in New South Wales, Australia, since 2016. Until now, this survey of the Milky Way was of a relatively small scale and could only target a reduced number of stars located just a few light-years away from Earth.
However, thanks to a major hardware upgrade of the Parkes telescope — also known as “The Dish,” notes the Australian website News.com.au — the project can now expand its ongoing survey to include an unprecedented number of stars, Breakthrough Initiatives announced today.
Sponsored by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, Breakthrough Initiatives oversees the Breakthrough Listen project, which aims to find signs of other technologically advanced civilizations in the universe. The initiative, which is also backed up by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, received the support of Stephen Hawking before the eminent professor passed away on March 14, reports the Australian news outlet.
The website quotes the late professor and offers a previous statement that echoes his views on the probability of Earth being the only populated planet in the vastness of the cosmos.
“The idea that we are alone in the universe seems to me completely implausible and arrogant. Considering the number of planets and stars that we know exist, it’s extremely unlikely that we are the only form of evolved life.”
As the Inquisitr reported last year, the late professor had thrown his support behind a previous Breakthrough Listen project and actually led the investigation that radio-scanned asteroid ‘Oumuamua, our first interstellar visitor.
This latest enterprise by Breakthrough Listen is set to comb through the disk and bulge of the Milky Way and cover a huge portion of the galaxy that encompasses tens of billions of stars. To do so, the project aims to complete 1,500 hours of deep space observation on the upgraded Parkes telescope by the end of the year.
In 2017, the telescope was fitted with a high-powered 13-beam receiver, which has now been equipped with “new digital instrumentation capable of recording the huge data rates” that come in from the multibeam receiver, shows the Breakthrough Initiatives news release.
The upgrade, installed by engineers from the Berkeley SETI Research Center at the University of California, will allow scientists to process the observational data at speeds of about 130 gigabits per second.
This is “one of the most comprehensive SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) experiments carried out to date,” notes Breakthrough Initiatives, as each of the receiver’s 13 beams will be scanning more than 100 million radio channels to gather almost 100 petabytes of data from deep space.
“With these new capabilities, we are scanning our galaxy in unprecedented detail,” said Danny Price, Parkes project scientist with the Breakthrough Listen survey at UC Berkeley.
“By trawling through these huge datasets for signatures of technological civilizations, we hope to uncover evidence that our planet, among the hundreds of billions in our Galaxy, is not the only one where intelligent life has arisen,” he added.
The new Breakthrough Listen survey plans to study not only the plane of the Milky Way but also a region around the galactic center, which “contains a supermassive black hole, surrounded by tens of millions of stars,” reveals the news release.