“Far Side of the World” Telescope Joins Earth’s Hunt for Advanced Alien Civilizations




“First light” for Breakthrough Listen at Parkes Telescope in New South Wales was achieved today with an observation of the newly-discovered Earth-size planet orbiting the nearest star to our Sun, Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf star 4.3 light years from Earth with a planet (Proxima b above) orbiting within its habitable zone.

The Parkes joins two US telescopes, the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Automated Planet Finder at Lick Observatory in California, in their ongoing surveys to determine whether civilisations exist elsewhere and have developed technologies similar to our own. The effort was announced by Breakthrough Listen, the 10-year, $100-million astronomical search for intelligent life beyond Earth launched in 2015 by Internet entrepreneur Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking.

“But once we knew there was a planet right next door, we had to ask the question, and it was a fitting first observation for Parkes. To find a civilisation just 4.2 light years away would change everything,” said Andrew Siemion, Director of Berkeley SETI Research Center and leader of the Breakthrough Listen science program.




CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope set in the southern hemisphere is perfectly positioned to observe parts of the sky that can’t be seen from the northern hemisphere, including the center of our own Milky Way galaxy, large swaths of the Galactic plane, and numerous other galaxies in the nearby Universe.

“The addition of Parkes is an important milestone,” says Yuri Milner, founder of the Breakthrough Initiatives, which include Breakthrough Listen, said These major instruments are the ears of planet Earth, and now they are listening for signs of other civilisations”.



Swinburne University of Technology is working closely with University of California, Berkeley, and CSIRO to design and implement a signal-processing and data-storage system for the project that will make the Breakthrough Listen data available to the science community.

“The detection system on Parkes will be simultaneously searching for naturally occurring phenomena such as pulsars and fast radio bursts, which are a large part of Parkes’ present work,” said Matthew Bailes, ARC Laureate Fellow at the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing at Swinburne University of Technology, and the Breakthrough Listen project’s Australian science coordinator. “The Australian science community welcomes the opportunity to share the Breakthrough Listen data for other ongoing research projects,” Dr Bailes said.

Breakthrough Listen will use 25 per cent of the science time available on the Parkes radio telescope over the next five years.

The Daily Galaxy via CSIRO


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