The hunt for extraterrestrial life just got a big leg up. Internet investor Yuri Milner and his Breakthrough Prize Foundation will spend $100 million supporting Breakthrough Listen, a project that will use radio telescopes, lasers and other equipment to search for alien signals. The cash will not only guarantee equipment time, but lead to dedicated processing equipment that could dramatically improve the discovery process. Researchers should not only cover several times more sky and radio wavelengths, but inspect both in greater detail and at higher speeds -- the radio telescope searches should run 100 times faster, even as they tackle five times as many wavelengths.
The agreement only covers 10 years of funding (not even a blip on the cosmic time scale), but it could do much to advance science even if ET doesn't phone home. It'll help scientists around the world investigate whole galaxies, rather than small groups of stars. Much of the data will also be public, so any budding astronomer could put the resulting information to use. Think of Breakthrough Listen as raising the bar for all searches, not just a fortunate few.
[Image credit: Lynette Cook, NASA]