The Breakthrough Listen project is our latest attempt to see if any other civilisations have made it through the Great Filter without destroying themselves in radioactive fires, investing $US100 million in the never-ending hunt for aliens clever enough to have invented telly and satellites.
The mission will use two of the largest radio telescopes on earth — the Green Bank Observatory and the Parkes Observatory — to focus on planets wobbling around stars in our galaxy and neighbouring stars, using thousands of hours of dish time on looking for telltale radio signals that could give us our first listen to alien pop music.
Hawking, who’s previously suggested we might be best off living in isolation, said of this latest effort: “It’s time to commit to finding the answer, to search for life beyond Earth. Mankind has a deep need to explore, to learn, to know. We also happen to be sociable creatures. It is important for us to know if we are alone in the dark.”
The listening approach is safer than beaming out messages to any potential Vorlons out there, with Hawking adding: “A civilisation 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,” hence he’s also asking for the Voyager probes to be turned around.
The money for the latest alien hunt is coming from Russian businessman Yuri Milner, who’s stumping up the entire £100m himself.