Famous for listening for signals from alien civilisations, SETI had its funding yanked in 1993, turning it into a private venture with very little money. Reportedly, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner will be infusing $100 million over the next decade, allowing the organisation to obtain active telescope time, rather than piggybacking on the research of others, as they have had to do in the past.
The money for Breakthrough Listen, as Mr. Milner calls the effort, is one of the biggest chunks of cash ever proffered for the so far fruitless quest for cosmic companionship known as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI. It will allow astronomers to see the kinds of radar used for air traffic control from any of the closest 1,000 stars, and to detect a laser with the power output of a common 100-watt light bulb from the distance of the nearest stars, some four light-years away, according to Mr. Milner’s team.
It also guarantees bounteous observing time on some of the world’s biggest radio telescopes — a rarity for SETI astronomers who are used to getting one night a year.
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