Parkes, the Australian radio telescope, will be joining in the Breakthrough Listen’s mission of searching traces of intelligent extraterrestrial life.
The Parkes radio telescope features a 210 feet wide dish which is located near Parkes, a city situated in the Australian New South Wales state.
The Parkes dish is currently operated by Australia’ CSIRO or the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and is famous for being one of the telescopes to have helped in the live video relay of the Apollo 11 moon landing mission.
Parkes will now become the third telescope to join in the Breakthrough Listen mission which also includes the Northern California Lick Observatory Automated Planet Finder and the West Virginia Green Bank Telescope.
The Breakthrough Listen is part of the larger Breakthrough Initiative founded by Yuri Milner, billionaire and entrepreneur.
According to the aforementioned Milner, the Parkes telescope will mark an important milestone in the project’s search for alien life.
As some of Earth’s major instruments are now trained towards listening and capturing signs of extraterrestrial life, Milner proceeded to call them our planet’s ears.
The first official Parkes observation as part of the Breakthrough Listen project was carried out this Monday, as the telescope was programmed to observe our neighboring star system, Proxima Centauri.
Proxima Centauri is located just 4.2 light-years away from our solar system’s center, the Sun and came to be in the general public’s attention this August.
In the respective summer month, astronomers revealed the existence of Proxima b, an Earth-size planet which orbits in the Proxima Centauri habitable zone.
The space area received this name as it is the located and is believed to contain the appropriate range of conditions and distances so as to allow for the existence of liquid water on the planet’s outer surface.
Breakthrough Listen is not the only group project to focus on Proxima Centauri, as the Breakthrough Starshot will seek to analyze the area.
The Starshot project aims to send a series of tiny nanoprobes which are sail equipped and should be carried towards the system by powerful lasers shooting at 20 percent of the speed of light.
The University of California, Berkley SETI Research Center director, Andrew Siemion, declared in the same announcement that the chances of encountering intelligent life-forms on a specific planet are probably slim to none.
However, the possibilities and implications of discovering such traces in as system as close to ours as Proxima Centauri were too big so as to simply be passed over.
The Breakthrough Listen project is set to span over the next ten years and has as an observation target the 1 million stars which are closest to our system’s Sun.
The 100 galaxies nearest to our Milky Way will also be analyzed for any possible SETI or Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence signal.
The data gathered by the Parkes telescope as part of the Breakthrough Listen will also be open to all interested researchers, students, and scientists, as is the rest of the information gathered by the program.
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