Searching for ET: Hawking to look for extraterrestrial life

Updated: 2015-07-21 09:12


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Searching for ET: Hawking to look for extraterrestrial life

Professor Stephen Hawking speaks at a media event to launch a global science initiative at The Royal Society in London, Britain, July 20, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

Organizers say the "Breakthrough Initiatives" project, also endorsed by other prominent British scientists, is the biggest ever scientific search for alien life. It includes a "listening" program - the effort to analyze vast amounts of radio signals in search of signs of life - and a "messaging" program that will include $1 million in prizes for digital messages that best represent the planet Earth.

The messages will not be sent, however, in part because some scientists - including Hawking - fear messages sent into space could possibly spur aggressive actions by alien races.

It will be supported by the 100-meter Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia in the United States and the 64-meter Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia.

In addition, the Lick Observatory in California will conduct a deeper-than-ever search for optical laser transmissions.

The project will be 50 times more sensitive than earlier searches, and will cover 10 times more of the sky, organizers say.

It will also make use of SETI(at)home, a University of California, Berkeley project that uses some 9 million volunteers throughout the world who donate computer power to search astronomical data for signs of life.

Milner said the search will be entirely transparent and will rely on open-source software so findings can be shared throughout the world.

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