Russian billionaire and tech entrepreneur Yuri Milner recently signed a contract with the University of California, Berkeley to fund the most comprehensive Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project ever, according to a report published Monday by Berkeley News. Milner’s Breakthrough Prize Foundation will provide $100 million to UC Berkeley—and other scientific organizations—for a project called Breakthrough Listen. The project will be a ten-year search of the Milky Way and 100 other galaxies for planets that may contain liquid water and radio signals from intelligent life.
Milner announced the project Monday at the Royal Society in London, accompanied by scientists such as physicist Stephen Hawking; SETI pioneer Frank Drake, who developed an equation to estimate the number of extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way; and UC Berkeley astronomy professor Geoff Marcy, who has discovered more planets outside the solar system than any other astronomer.
“We learned from the NASA Kepler mission that our Milky Way galaxy contains tens of billions of Earth-size planets at lukewarm temperatures, any of which might harbor life,” Marcy told Berkeley News.
New instruments and extended time with some of the world’s most powerful telescopes will allow Breakthrough Listen searches to cover ten times more of the sky, with 50 times more sensitivity, than previous SETI efforts.
“It is our responsibility as human beings to use the best equipment we have to try to answer one of the biggest questions: Are we alone?” Milner said to a reporter at the Guardian. “We cannot afford not to do this.”