Breakthrough Discuss is an annual academic conference focused on life in the Universe and novel ideas for space exploration.
Breakthrough Discuss 2023
Breakthrough Discuss 2023 was held on June 28-29, for the second time at UC Santa Cruz as well as online, co-hosted by the African Astronomical Society, Caltech, NASA’s Ames Research Center, the SETI Institute, the University of Arizona, UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley, the University of Manchester and the University of Oxford Department of Physics. Under the banner “Welcome to the Neighborhood,” the event brought together leaders in astronomy, space science, engineering and other fields to debate new ideas close to home: how near-Earth locations can advance the search for extraterrestrial intelligence; new ways to look for potentially habitable exoplanets in our cosmic back yard; and how human technology could reach nearby stars. The two days saw three intensive and enlightening sessions: The Search for Techno-Signatures from Space, chaired by Mike Garrett and Sofia Sheikh; Mapping our Local Stellar Neighborhood, chaired by Anne-Marie Lagrange and Ewan Douglas; and The Pursuit of Interstellar Missions & Science, chaired by Mae Jemison and Karl Aspelund. Watch the conference talks here.
Breakthrough Discuss 2022
Breakthrough Discuss 2022 was held online and at UC Santa Cruz June 22-23 2022. The theme “Watch this Space! Innovations for a Low Cost Future” brought out the brightest minds to talk about the search for bio and techno-signatures, uncovering new innovations in cosmology and reducing costs to expand our presence deep into the solar system. It was co-hosted by NASA Ames Research Center, the UC Berkeley Radio Astronomy Lab, ASU Interplanetary Initiative, Caltech and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The group took part in three focused sessions: Innovations in Cosmology, chaired by Suzanne Staggs and Phil Mauskopf; Solar System Exploration, chaired by Slava Turyshev and Amanda Hendrix; and Techno and Bio-Signatures, chaired by Cherry Ng and Steve Croft. Watch the conference talks here.
Breakthrough Discuss 2021
Breakthrough Discuss 2021 was held virtually April 12-13, 2021. This year’s theme was “The Alpha Centauri System: A Beckoning Neighbor.” The conference brought together an all-star group of scientists and included keynotes from astronaut John Grunsfeld and legendary geneticist George Church. Director James Cameron also spoke during Day 1 of the event. Co-hosted by NASA Ames Research Center, UC Berkeley Earth and Planetary Science, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the three sessions were: Mapping the Alpha Centauri System, chaired by Olivier Guyon and Sara Seager; Prospects for Life at Alpha Centauri, chaired by Lisa Kaltenegger and Andrew Siemion; and Missions to Alpha Centauri, chaired by Harry Atwater and Kerri Cahoy. A special Yuri’s Night event marked the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first flight into space. Watch the conference talks here.
Breakthrough Discuss 2019
Breakthrough Discuss 2019 was held at UC Berkeley April 11-12, 2019. The theme, “Migration of Life in the Universe,” brought together an all-star group of astronomers, biologists, chemists and other experts to discuss whether and how primitive life can move between planets and stars, and if that is how life began on Earth. Co-hosted by the UC Berkeley Department of Astronomy, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and NASA Astrobiology Institute and NASA Ames Research Center, the three sessions were: Migration of Life in the Universe, chaired by Penelope Boston and Lindy Elkins-Tanton; Search for Extraterrestrial Genomes, chaired by Drew Endy and Gary Ruvkun; and Emigration of Earth Life, chaired by Kate Adamala and Sara Walker. Watch the conference talks here.
Breakthrough Discuss 2018
Breakthrough Discuss 2018 (April 12-13), held at Stanford University, was co-hosted by Stanford University's Department of Physics, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and NASA Astrobiology Institute & NASA Ames Research Center. The conference’s three sessions were: Search for Life in our Solar System, chaired by Penelope Boston and Chris McKay; Possibilities for Non-Terran Life in the Universe, chaired by Svetlana Berdyugina and Lisa Kaltenegger; and Progress in Novel Space Propulsion, chaired by Sigrid Close and Zachary Manchester. Watch the conference here.
Breakthrough Discuss 2017
Breakthrough Discuss 2017 (April 20-21) was hosted by Stanford University’s Department of Physics and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and sponsored by the Breakthrough Initiatives. The conference focused on the following three areas: Observations of Proxima b and Habitable Planets Around Nearby Cool Stars, chaired by Oliver Guyon; SETI Observations of Proxima b and Nearby Stars, chaired by Jill Tarter; and Scientific Goals and Instrumentation for a Flyby of the Nearest Stars, chaired by Avi Loeb. Watch the conference here.
Breakthrough Discuss 2016
The inaugural Breakthrough Discuss conference (April 15-16) was hosted by Stanford University’s Department of Physics and sponsored by the Breakthrough Initiatives. The event focused on the following three areas: Optical SETI and the Detectability of Directed Energy Systems, chaired by Jill Tarter; Exo-planet Detection Programs Focused on Alpha Centauri, chaired by Olivier Guyon; and the Sun as a Gravitational Lens, chaired by Avi Loeb. Watch the conference here.