Breakthrough Listen Research Program For E.T. Joined By Parkes Observatory; The Hunt Begins

By Megan Morrison , Parent Herald November 10, 09:00 pm

The Parkes observatory joins two American radio telescopes, Green Bank in West Virginia and the Automated Planet Finder in California, in addition to China's FAST, the world's largest radio telescope. Thanks to Parkes, Breakthrough Listen will have something new to bring on the research program for E.T.: a very sensitive ear in the Southern Hemisphere.

 Breakthrough Listen will have access to 25 percent of the science time Parkes telescope will provide over the next five years. This project will study stars for any radio waves that are irregular or out of the ordinary and most probable indicators of extraterrestrial intelligence, which is part of the research program for E.T. No luck for the program so far, but hunting advanced civilizations is only part of Breakthrough Listen's mission.

Dr. Bailes, Breakthrough Listen's Australian science coordinator, said that the detection system on Parkes for the research program for E.T. will be searching for naturally occurring phenomena such as pulsars and fast radio burst as well, which are a huge chunk of Parkes' present work.

"The Australian science community welcomes the opportunity to share the Breakthrough Listen data for other ongoing research projects."

The Parkes telescope had its official "first light" for Breakthough Listen last November 8, after 14 days of commissioning and test observations. Proxima b, the recently discovered exoplanet around the closes star to the Sun, Proxima Centauri, was chosen to become the target to celebrate the beginning of operations.

An Earth-sized planet, Proxima b, orbits within the habitable zone of its star, which is located just 4.2 light-years from Earth, which is a minuscule distance in interstellar terms. Researchers don't expect to find much since the chances of finding life on one singular planet are incredibly minute.

However, Dr. Andrew Siemion, Director of Berkeley SETI Research Center and leader of the Breakthrough Listen science program, said that they had to ask the question, once finding out that there was a planet right next door. "It was a fitting first observation for Parkes," he said.

"To find a civilization just 4.2 light years away would change everything."

This project is being financed by Yuri Milner, a Russian Internet entrepreneur and is part of Breakthrough Listen's initiatives. The Breakthrough Listen initiatives are a series of projects that aim to help humanity make "the great leap to the stars." Milner, along with many others, was very excited to know that the Parkes telescope is now part of Breakthrough Listen.

"These major instruments are the ears of the planet Earth," he goes on to say. "Now they are listening for signs of other civilizations."


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