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Searching for Neighbors II

November 8, 2016

Using two of the world’s largest radio telescopes, plus a planet-hunting optical telescope, a team of astronomers is trying to eavesdrop on conversations between planets in other star systems, or catch the broadcasts of a “Galaxy Wide Web” that links multiple stars. The team also is listening for possible greetings transmitted our way by some of those neighbors: extraterrestrial civilizations at least as advanced as our own.

Breakthrough Listen is a 10-year, 100-million dollar project funded by Yuri Milner, a Russian billionaire.

The project will receive 20 percent of the observing time on giant radio telescopes in West Virginia and Australia, providing a view of the entire universe.

Breakthrough Listen is 50 times more sensitive than earlier programs. It’s listening for signals from the nearest million stars. Many of the stars are close enough to allow the telescopes to detect not just the greetings that other civilizations might beam our way, but the whine of military radar, communications between star systems, and even tightly beamed signals between planets within a single system.

The telescopes also monitor the densely packed center of the Milky Way galaxy, as well as a hundred other galaxies.

In addition to its “ears,” the project also has an “eye” on the universe: an optical telescope in California, which will search for interstellar lasers — one more way to track down ET.

More about the search for ET tomorrow.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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