Updated 9:12 AM EST, Tue, Jan 05, 2021

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Breakthrough Initiatives Widens Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence


(Photo : The University of Manchester ) The Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory

The search for intelligent life beyond the Earth received a huge fillip with the new partnership between Breakthrough Initiatives and The Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at The University of Manchester in Cheshire in the United Kingdom.

Breakthrough Listen is the most comprehensive scientific search for intelligent life ever launched. It will share information with Jodrell Bank's team that will conduct an independent SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) search via its 76 meter Lovell Telescope (a radio telescope) and the e-MERLIN array.

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MERLIN, or the Multi-Element Radio Linked Interferometer Network, is an interferometer array of radio telescopes spread across England. The array is run from Jodrell Bank Observatory by the University of Manchester.

The collaboration will openly exchange observing plans, search methods and data, and is part of a growing international collaboration of astronomers and observing facilities focused on SETI.

The two teams are planning a series of meetings and conferences to refine search strategies, data analyses and results.

The collaboration was announced via a joint statement by Prof. Michael Garrett, Director of The Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, and Pete Klupar, Director of Engineering for the Breakthrough Initiatives, at a signing ceremony in Manchester, England.

"Jodrell Bank is a superb observatory with an outstanding track record of astronomical discoveries," said Klupar.

"We are proud to be working with them to focus on one of the great unsolved questions in science."

"The opportunity to work directly with colleagues involved in Breakthrough Listen is an important step forward in getting the UK back into the SETI business," said Prof. Garrett.

In October 2016, Breakthrough Initiatives announced a collaboration with the FAST telescope in China. With this latest development, the observatories collaborating on SETI searches now spans four continents.

There are proposals to upgrade the e-MERLIN telescope, expanding its frequency range in order to permit observations of proto-planetary disks and to enable the simultaneous detection and localization of transient sources, including potential SETI signals.

The Breakthrough Initiatives are a set of long-term astronomical programs exploring the Universe, seeking scientific evidence of life beyond Earth, and encouraging public debate from a planetary perspective.

Breakthrough Listen, launched in July 2015, is the most comprehensive astronomical search for intelligent life ever undertaken. It employs two of the world's biggest radio telescopes: the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, USA, and the Parkes Observatory in New South Wales, Australia; as well as the Automated Planet Finder at Lick Observatory in California, USA, which searches for laser signals.

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