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Stephen Hawking's Hunt For Alien Life Gets Big Boost With Expanded Survey Of Milky Way Stars

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Stephen Hawking believed there is intelligent alien life. Before he died on March 14, he was part of a $100 million project that aims to find extraterrestrial life.

The Breakthrough Listen Initiative

The Breakthrough Listen Initiative, created by Russian inventor Yuri Milner, Hawking, and others, has the objective of collecting deep space data to find signals of alien life.

"We believe that life arose spontaneously on Earth," Hawking said in July 2015 during the launch of the project. "So in an infinite universe, there must be other occurrences of life."

Australia's Parkes Radio Telescope became the third telescope used by Breakthrough Listen project to scan the heavens in 2016, joining the ranks of Automated Planet Finder at Lick Observatory in Northern California, and Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.

New Parkes Radio Telescope Hardware To Expand Survey

On Monday, Breakthrough Listen project revealed the launch of an expanded survey of stars in the Milky Way with the installation of a multibeam receiver on the Parkes Radio Telescope.

The previous receivers used only observed a single point on the sky one at a time. Parkes telescope has also been targeting just a small sample of stars within a relatively short distance from our home planet.

In comparison, the new receiver will use 13 beams to scan a large swath of space, which could quickly pull data that researchers will analyze to find signals that indicate artificial origin.

Besides covering the plane of the Milky Way, the new observations will also include a region around the Galactic Center, the rotational center of the Milky Way. A supermassive black hole lies in this region and this is surrounded by millions of stars.

The new hardware will likewise allow the system to process 130 gigabits per second of observational data. Since the project is signed up for 1,500 of observation times with Parkes telescope for this year, it could mean collecting around 100 petabytes of raw data, which is equivalent to over 5 million HD movies.

Better Opportunity To Find Signs Of Alien Life

Danny Price, Parkes Project scientist with the Breakthrough Listen project, said that with the new capabilities, researchers will be able to scan the galaxy in unprecedented detail.

"By trawling through these huge datasets for signatures of technological civilizations, we hope to uncover evidence that our planet, among the hundreds of billions in our Galaxy, is not the only one where intelligent life has arisen," Price said in a statement.

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