“It came only a few months after Stephen Hawking and I, with Mark Zuckerberg’s support, launched our Breakthrough Starshot project, which aims to launch a tiny spacecraft to Alpha Centauri within a generation,” Mr Milner told the Daily Mail.
“At the time, we hoped there was a planet in the Centauri system, but we didn’t know. Now we have a definite target. That makes the mission feel more tangible.”
Thousands of new planets have been discovered before, but unlike the others, scientists say Proxima B is believed to be the closest to our solar system.
While four light years is a long way – more than 25 trillion miles – future generations of super-fast spacecraft could travel there in the next few decades.
Professor Hawking always been certain alien life is out there. He says he is backing the project as he believes that it’s better for us to find them before they find us.
Even though adding we should be cautious of reaching out to extraterrestrial life if we find it, he said: “Gazing at the stars I always imagined there was someone up there looking back. Hawking says during a film, titled ‘Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places’.
“As I grow older I am more convinced than ever that we are not alone.”
This should stop us from looking, Milner says.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the existential questions of life and the universe,” he said.
“It is fundamental to understanding our place in the big scheme of things. You can’t know who you are without having others to compare yourself to.”
“They could well be right. But they could also be wrong.
“Either way the answer would be incredible. We humans are curious beings who like to know the truth. So, why not look?,” he added.
Using the Parkes Observatory in Australia, the Breakthrough Listen team will begin to look for radio emissions that vary from the natural background noise early next month.
The same observatory was used to receive live televised pictures of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.
“It is difficult to predict how long the search will take, but we know that all the conditions necessary for life to arise on Earth are ubiquitous in the universe,” Andrew Siemion, Director of Berkeley SETI (Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Research Center told the Daily Mail.
The team hopes to avoid false alarm similar signals to the ‘alien’ signals that were picked up by the RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya, Russia, but they say this could be complex than it sounds.
Andrew Siemion, Director of Berkeley Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence Research Centre, said:
“Terrestrial technology is a challenging problem.
“Our notion of what types of emission are produced by technology is informed by our own technology…our own technology presents a significant interfering background.”
Using the Green Bank Radio Telescope in West Virginia and Lick Observatory’s Automated Planet Finder in California, the Breakthrough Listen team has already collected data on other star systems.
Breakthrough Listen is a search for intelligent life using two of the world’s most powerful telescopes.
On October 4, the Breakthrough Listen team will use the Parkes Observatory in Australia to look for radio emission that differs from the natural background noise
It was launched in January with the aim of scouring one million of the closest stars to Earth for faint signals thrown out into space by intelligent life beyond our own world.
Scientists taking part in the £76 million ($100 million) project are also scanning the very heart of our galaxy along with 100 of the closest galaxies for low power radio transmissions.
Breakthrough Listen will collect data over a 10-year period.
Search capacity will be 50 times more sensitive, cover 10 times more of the sky, five times more of the radio spectrum, and at speeds 100 times faster.
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Three of the world’s richest men are hoping to be the first to find alien life. Yuri Milner (centre), Stephen Hawking and Mark Zuckerberg have revealed exclusively to MailOnline that they will be listening in to signals from ‘Earth 2.0’
Most of the stars are within 16 light years of Earth as per the studies carried out until now by the project.
Breakthrough Listen can collect data over a 10-year period from a network of the world’s most powerful radio and optical telescopes to produce huge, full-sky signal monitoring.
The Milky Way (artist’s impression shown top) is around 100,000 light years across. Earth and Proxima b are only 4 light years apart (inset), making them galactic neighbours. Scientists hope we can reach the planet in the next few decades
Search capacity is 50 times more sensitive, covers 10 times more of the sky, 5 times more of the radio spectrum, and at speeds 100 times faster.
What would Milner do if we did hear signals from an alien civilisation?
“I will take a bottle of champagne out of the fridge and start thinking about the message back,” he says.