Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Listen Launches Star-Searching Operation With MeerKAT Observatory 

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has just grown as Breakthrough Listen, an astronomical programme backed by billionaire Yuri Milner, is set to work with the MeerKAT telescope in South Africa. This collaboration will multiply Listen’s search 1,000-fold and increase its chances of finding alien life.

Here, we’ll explore Listen’s MeerKAT plans and Yuri Milner’s passion for science, touching on his short book Eureka Manifesto, Giving Pledge, and Breakthrough Initiatives.

Stellar Research With the Breakthrough Initiatives

Breakthrough Listen is one of five Breakthrough Initiatives, which Yuri Milner co-founded and funds through the Breakthrough Foundation.

The Breakthrough Initiatives Listen and Watch are both searching the heavens for alien life. While Listen hopes to detect technosignatures that could originate from alien civilisations, Watch is looking for biosignatures that could identify nearby planets hosting organic life.

If Watch does find an inhabited planet, this planet could make an ideal target for another programme: Breakthrough Starshot. This programme is working on demonstrating proof of concept for interstellar nanocrafts and already has its sights set on Alpha Centauri.

Lastly, the Breakthrough Initiatives Message and Discuss encourage widespread engagement with topics on life beyond Earth, in the form of a competition and an annual conference.

Yuri Milner’s Giving Pledge

The Breakthrough Initiatives have already proven one thing: Yuri Milner is not a man to go back on a promise.

Back in 2012, Yuri Milner and his wife Julia signed Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates’ Giving Pledge and committed at least half of their wealth to primarily scientific causes. In his Giving Pledge letter, Yuri Milner wrote of his intention to invest in science’s leading minds and humanity’s shared future.

Eureka Manifesto

Yuri Milner continued to write on that subject, publishing his book Eureka Manifesto in 2021. Eureka Manifesto sets up the case for humanity’s “universal story” and proposes a unifying mission for our civilisation — to explore and expand our understanding of the Universe.

That mission has just rocketed thanks to Breakthrough Listen’s recent collaboration with the largest telescope in the Southern Hemisphere.

Breakthrough Listen’s Latest Mission

So far, Breakthrough Listen’s scientists have harnessed powerful telescopes like the U.S. Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and the Australian Parkes Telescope. But MeerKAT, located in the Karoo region of South Africa, is different.

With 64 dishes, the MeerKAT array can cover 50 times more sky than the GBT. This increased scope, combined with Breakthrough Listen’s new supercomputer, means scientists can examine precise, high-resolution scans of the programme’s targets. Our solar system’s closest neighbouring star, Proxima Centauri, is one of the programme’s first targets.

Another benefit is that the range of dishes improves Listen’s ability to rule out human-made signals from interfering satellites. Plus, the unique array allows Listen access to MeerKAT almost 24/7, without impacting the work of other astronomers.

Breakthrough Listen’s Project Scientist for MeerKAT, Dr. Cherry Ng says that “MeerKAT will provide us with the ability to detect a transmitter akin to Earth’s brightest radio beacons out to a distance of 250 light years in our routine observing mode.”

Those routine observations are now underway. Dr. S Pete Worden, the Breakthrough Initiatives executive director, says that “the team looks forward to sharing the first science results in the coming months.”

Krysta Jakson

Krysta is an experienced blogger, writing blogs on lifestyle, fashion, beauty and travel. She wonderfully describes the latest trends on these topics, making the articles interesting for all the readers.