London (AP) — Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has joined a Russian billionaire to launch a major new effort to listen for aliens in the search for extraterrestrial life.
Hawking has offered his support to tech entrepreneur Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Initiatives project — a $100 million quest to see if extraterrestrial intelligence exists. Milner, who made a fortune through investments in companies like Facebook, said the power and innovation of Silicon Valley could be harnessed to search the entire Milky Way and 100 nearby galaxies.
“There is no bigger question,” Hawking said. “It is time to commit to finding the answer to search for life beyond Earth.”
As well as using some of the world’s most powerful telescopes, the Breakthrough Listen project will support SETI@home, a University of California, Berkeley computing platform. The project will harness computer power, having 9 million volunteers working in tandem by donating spare computing power to a worldwide network, scanning the skies and looking for life — creating one of the biggest supercomputers in the world.
The researchers say they will be able to collect as much data in one day that which was collected in a year.
“The scope of our search will be unprecedented — a million nearby stars, the galactic center the entire plane of the Milky Way and 100 nearby galaxies,” Milner said.
Hawking said it is time for questions to be answered.
“Somewhere in the cosmos, perhaps, intelligent life may be watching these lights of ours aware of what they mean,” Hawking said. “Or do our lights wander a lifeless cosmos, unseen beacons announcing that here on our rock, the universe discovered its existence?’