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Investor Yuri Milner joins with Berkeley in $100 million search for extraterrestrial intelligence


Artist’s conception of Kepler 186f, an Earth-size exoplanet in the habitable zone of its star. Stellar systems like this are prime targets for a new SETI program sponsored by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation. (NASA image)

On Monday July 20th, the Breakthrough Prize Foundation and it's founder, famed internet investor Yuri Milner, announced a contract with UC Berkeley that will provide a massive boost of funding towards the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The foundation has pledged $100 million dollars over the next 10 years to UC Berkeley and other additional institutions as part of the Breakthrough Listen project, a project aimed at creating and building new instruments to better analyze information collected by two telescopes that have been contracted through the project: the 100-meter Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the 64-meter Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia, both of which will now dedicate 20 and 25 percent of their telescope time to searching for signals from other civilizations. The prize also allows for funding to be directed towards the Automated Planet Finder, an optical telescope located at Lick Observatory.

The project also will provide funding to develop the next generation of SETI scientists: “This is about five times the amount of money now spent worldwide on SETI, part of which will be used to purchase dedicated time on telescopes that previously we were lucky to get only a day or two per year,” said Dan Werthimer, Chief SETI scientist and leader of SERENDIP and director of SETI@home.

The initiative was announced at the Royal Society in London; Milner was joined on-stage by world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, Astronomer Royal Martin Rees, SETI research pioneer Frank Drake, UC Berkeley astronomy professor and "Exoplanet Hunter" Geoff Marcy, postdoctoral fellow and UC Berkeley graduate Andrew Siemion, and Breakingthrough Prize foundation chairman Peter Worden.

To learn more about this unprecedented prize, you can read the complete article here.


TAGS: SETI, Dan Werthimer, Andrew Siemion, Breakthrough, Prize