Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Hollywood, CA, United States (4E) – Breakthrough Listen, the global initiative looking for signs of intelligent life in the Universe, has partnered with the MeerKAT telescope in South Africa, the world’s largest radio telescope array, to search for extraterrestrial signals and alien “technosignatures.”
Breakthrough Listen is the largest ever scientific research program whose goal is to uncover evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations in the Universe.
It announced the launch of a major new program with the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), operator of the MeerKAT telescope. The partners will examine a million individual stars, or 1,000 times the number of targets in any previous search.
Breakthrough Listen’s MeerKAT survey will search for technosignatures in the quietest part of the radio spectrum and hunt for signs of extraterrestrial technology. Because of the deal with SARAO, Listen will be able to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in parallel with other surveys.
“Collaborating with MeerKAT will significantly enhance the capabilities of Breakthrough Listen,” said Yuri Milner, founder of the Breakthrough Initiatives. “This is now a truly global project.”
Built and operated by SARAO and inaugurated July 13, MeerKAT is a powerful array of 64 radio antennas in the Karoo Desert. Signals from MeerKAT’s 64 dishes are combined electronically to create a powerful combination of sensitivity, resolution and field of view.
MeerKAT also serves as a precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which will expand and enhance the current facility in the coming decades. SKA will eventually span a million square meters across South Africa and Australia to create the world’s largest radio telescope by far. MeerKAT will be integrated into Phase 1 of the mid-frequency component of the SKA.
“Listen and MeerKAT are developing next-generation technology and techniques that will ultimately lead to proposals for searches with the Square Kilometre Array. This is an exciting moment for SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and radio astronomy in general,” said Breakthrough Initiatives’ Executive Director, Pete Worden.
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