It hasn’t been widely publicized, but the most extensive search for extraterrestrial intelligence ever undertaken has been up and running for more than four years.
Breakthrough Listen is a 10-year, $100 million space scanning project sponsored the Berkeley (California) SETI Research Center and funded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner. Breakthrough Listen is the latest manifestation of the SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) program, which has passed through multiple phases since its inception in the late 1970s. This privatized version of SETI will eventually aim its detecting devices at more than one million nearby star systems and 100 neighboring galaxies, searching for optical and radio signals that might indicate the presence of technologically advanced life.
Current sky monitoring operations are being carried out using two of the world’s most powerful telescopes: the 100-metre Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia (USA) and the 64-metre Parkes Observatory Telescope in Parkes, New South Wales (Australia). Eventually, the new MeerKAT observatory telescope array in South Africa will join the project as well, and its 864 metres of cumulative magnifying capacity will dramatically expand Breakthrough Listen’s star scanning abilities.
So far, scientists associated with this new SETI iteration have completed analysis on data collected from 1,327 stars, all located within 160 light years of Earth. As of now, they’ve come up completely empty.
Not a single indicator of life has been found. No radio signals, laser traces, or anomalous activity covering any part of the electromagnetic spectrum.