4/12/16: Breakthrough Listen Initiative Publicly Sharing Data from Unprecedented Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe

Breakthrough ListenThe $100 million initiative to find signs of intelligent life in the universe – is releasing initial observational datasets to the world, Breakthrough Initiatives announced today.

January 2016 saw ‘first light’ for Breakthrough Listen, with observations marking the start of the 10-year effort announced in July 2015 at London’s Royal Society by Yuri Milner, Stephen Hawking, Lord Martin Rees, Ann Druyan, and Frank Drake. Hundreds of hours of observations have taken place using the Green Bank Radio Telescope in West Virginia and Lick Observatory’s Automated Planet Finder in Mt. Hamilton, California.

Today Breakthrough Listen is releasing the first batch of data for public access at the Breakthrough Initiatives website. Data from the Green Bank Telescope is also available to users of UC Berkeley’s SETI@home software.

Observations made so far by Breakthrough Listen include most of the stars within 16 light years of Earth (including stars such as 51 Pegasi that are known to host extra-solar planets), and a sample of stars between 16 and 160 light years away. This included nearby sun-like and giant stars as well as numerous binary stars. The search also targeted around 40 of the nearest spiral galaxies, including members of the Maffei Group in the direction of the constellation Cassiopeia. Stars within 16 light years accessible only from the Southern Hemisphere, such as Alpha Centauri, will be observed by the end of the year with the Parkes Telescope.

Published by: Breakthrough Initiatives.  See more at: http://www.breakthroughinitiatives.org/News/3

4/12/16: Green Bank Telescope begins 10-year search for extraterrestrial intelligence

milner_2016Since January, scientists taking part in a $100 million, 10-year search for extraterrestrial intelligence have used Pocahontas County’s Green Bank Telescope to search the 200 stars nearest Earth for radio signals bearing clues of the possible presence of other civilizations.

The search, called Project Breakthrough Listen, was announced last July by Russian billionaire and space philanthropist Yuri Milner and renowned cosmologist Stephen Hawking.

The announcement that Breakthrough Listen observations are underway came during a news conference in New York on Tuesday, during which Milner and Hawking announced the launch of Breakthrough Starshot, another $100 million space research initiative funded by Milner’s Breakthrough Foundation. The new initiative provides funding to design, engineer and demonstrate the feasibility of developing a fleet of miniature, robotic, light-powered “nanocraft” to explore beyond our solar system and check for signs of life in the neighboring Alpha Centauri star system, 4.37 light years distant.

Published in The Charleston Gazette.  See more at: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/news/20160412/green-bank-telescope-begins-10-year-search-for-extraterrestrial-intelligence#sthash.0A6gPyrX.dpuf

03/26/2016: Green Bank’s Quiet Zone gets mobile service

5_cropFor years, Green Bank has been known as the Quiet Zone but thanks to AT&T some parts are about to get loud.

Green Bank West Virginia is home to the world’s largest steerable telescope and it’s located at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Pocahontas County. For more than 20 years, the enormous telescope has prevented residents and vacationers at Snowshoe Mountain Resort to function without the use of cell service.

“The GBT is huge, it’s 2.3 acres of collecting area. If you want to think about it, it means you can pick up the entire Mountaineers Stadium and stick it right inside the dish,” said Dr. Karen O’Neil, the observatory’s site director.  “The Green Bank Telescope is an astronomical instrument. We use it to go out, we use it to look up at the sky and to try to understand the big questions of how did we get here, and to really understand how galaxies formed and how the universe form and how we formed.”

Aired on WVNS – Beckley.  See more at: http://www.wearewvproud.com/story/31562645/green-banks-quiet-zone-goes-mobile

4/6/16: Gravitational wave search provides insights into galaxy evolution and mergers

GravitationalwavesGiven scientists’ current understanding of how often galaxies merge, limits point to fewer detectable pairs of supermassive black holes than previously expected.

On the heels of their participation in the historic research that resulted in the detection of gravitational waves, West Virginia University (WVU) astrophysicists continue to plow new ground and build upon their work.

WVU scientists were members of the LIGO team that detected gravitational waves from merging pairs of black holes approximately 29 to 36 times the mass of the Sun, confirming that distortions in the fabric of space-time can be observed and measured.

WVU scientists are also continuing to make discoveries about the universe as members of North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav), which has spent the past decade searching for low-frequency gravitational waves emitted by pairs of black holes with masses many millions of times larger than those seen by LIGO.

Published by Astronomy Magazine.  See more at: http://www.astronomy.com/news/videos/2016/04/gravitational-wave-search-provides-insights-into-galaxy-evolution-and-mergers

4/14/16: Daily Mail editorial: Green Bank assists in search for other life

GBT4_RGB2002_hiOver the next decade, the Green Bank Observatory in Pocahontas County will see a $20 million investment as part of a search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

The 10-year, $100 million project called Project Breakthrough Listen was announced last year, the Gazette-Mail’s Rick Steelhammer reported. Scientists have been using the Green Bank Telescope since January to search the 200 stars nearest Earth for radio signals bearing clues to the possible presence of other civilizations.

The project is funded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, and famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking is also involved.

Researchers will use other telescopes and instruments across the globe. According to Steelhammer’s article: “Project Breakthrough Listen will make use of about 20 percent of the Green Bank Telescope’s observation time during the next 10 years, bringing a total of $20 million to the Green Bank Observatory. In addition to the 100-meter Green Bank Telescope — the world’s largest fully steerable telescope, Breakthrough Listen also makes use of the Parkes Radio Telescope, in Australia, and the Automated Planet Finder, at the Lick Observatory near San Jose.”

Published in The Charleston Gazette. – See more at: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/daily-mail-opinion/20160414/daily-mail-editorial-green-bank-assists-in-search-for-other-life#sthash.oqZbz6Gv.dpuf