Breakthrough Listen Is Searching a Million Stars for One Sign of Intelligent Life

The world’s largest SETI effort is scanning the skies with AI

11 min read
Photo: Enrico Sacchetti/INAF

In 1960, astronomer Frank Drake turned the radio telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, W.Va., toward two nearby sunlike stars to search for transmissions from intelligent extraterrestrial societies. With a pair of headphones, Drake listened to Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani for a total of 150 hours across multiple sessions. He heard nothing, except for a single false positive that turned out to be an airplane.

Statistically speaking, Drake's pioneering project had little chance of success. Estimates from both NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) suggest that our galaxy alone contains roughly 100 billion stars. (And there are perhaps 2 trillion galaxies in the universe).

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