Yuri Milner, a Russian entrepreneur, and famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking announced a new initiative this week that will devote $100 million to searching for signs of alien life.
Milner and Hawking announced the new project, called Breakthrough Listen, Monday at a news conference at the Royal Society in London. They were joined by Frank Drake, an emeritus professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who called the venture “a miracle," according to The New York Times.
The venture marks one of the most expensive ever launched in the continued Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). According to Milner, the funds will permit astronomers to "see the kinds of radar used for air traffic control from any of the closest 1,000 stars, and to detect a laser with the power output of a common 100-watt light bulb from the distance of the nearest stars, some four light-years away," The Times noted.
Breakthrough Listen will also get SETI astronomers more time with the world's largest radio telescope, something generally only reserved for use one night each year.
“In an infinite universe there must be other occurrences of life,” Hawking said at the conference, adding that atoms and forces of nature could explain lights in the sky, but not on Earth. “Or do our lights wander a lifeless universe? Either way, there is no bigger question.”
In addition to the search, Milner also announced a Breakthrough Message competition, which will award $1 million to the person who creates the best message that could be broadcast to alien life if we knew there was someone out there to hear it, according to The Times.
Though Milner is funneling a lot of his own money into the space venture, he said he still doesn’t have any high expectations.
"I don't have high expectations, but the search itself will teach us quite a bit," he said, according to The Washington Post
. "We could find something we're not even looking for."
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