A project, called ‘Breakthrough Listen’, that will listen for signs of alien life was conceived by the Breakthrough Initiatives group at the Royal Society in London. Speaking at the launch of the venture, Professor Stephen Hawking said that there was “no bigger question” than whether there was extraterrestrial life.
The project, which will last 10 years and will cost Rs 6,36,58,07,465 (£64million), is believed to be the biggest ever search for alien life.
“Somewhere in the cosmos, perhaps, intelligent life may be watching these lights of ours, aware of what they mean. Or do our lights wander a lifeless cosmos? Unseen beacons, announcing that here, on one rock, the Universe discovered its existence. Either way, there is no bigger question,” Hawking said.
The idea behind the venture is to listen for signal broadcast from over a million stars that are closest to Earth.
According to Breakthrough Initiatives, this project will cover 10 times more of the cosmos than any previous attempt, and will scan five times more of the radio spectrum 100 times faster than before. Two of the world’s most powerful telescopes – Green Bank (West Virginia, U.S.A) and Parkes (NSW, Australia) – will be used for the search.
Yuri Milner, tech billionaire, founded the initiative to bring a “Silicon Valley approach” to the search for extraterrestrial life.
However, what is surprising everyone is that so far Stephen Hawking has been very concerned about the search for alien life. In 2010, he spoke about his belief that any aliens who were advanced enough to contact Earth would be “looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they could reach.”
One important distinction that has perhaps soothed Hawking’s reservations is that Breakthrough Listen will not send any messages or signals.
Hawking revealed some of his concern when he told reporters at the launch, “A civilization reading one of our messages could be billions of years ahead of us. If so, they will be vastly more powerful, and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.”
Still, he said of the need to search for life beyond Earth, “We are alive. We are intelligent. We must know.”