Breakthrough Initiatives and Jodrell Bank Observatory Launch New Collaboration in Search for Intelligent Life beyond Earth

Breakthrough Listen experiments in US and Australia to coordinate activities with historic UK telescopes Data sharing will allow rapid follow-up observations of possible signals.

Manchester, UK - May 31 – Breakthrough Initiatives and The Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at The University of Manchester announced a new partnership to search for evidence of intelligent life beyond Earth.

Breakthrough Listen, the most comprehensive scientific search for intelligent life ever launched, will share information with Jodrell Bank’s team, who wish to conduct an independent SETI search via its 76-m radio telescope and e-MERLIN array.

As part of a growing international collaboration of astronomers and observing facilities focused on SETI, the collaboration will openly exchange observing plans, search methods and data, including the rapid sharing of any promising new signal made by either party for additional observation and analysis by the other. The two teams are planning a series of meetings and conferences to refine search strategies, data analyses and results.

At a signing ceremony in Manchester, England, the collaboration was announced via a joint statement by Michael Garrett, Director of The Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, and Pete Klupar, Director of Engineering for the Breakthrough Initiatives.

“Jodrell Bank is a superb observatory with an outstanding track record of astronomical discoveries,” said Pete Klupar, Director of Engineering for the Breakthrough Initiatives, “We are proud to be working with them to focus on one of the great unsolved questions in science.”

According to Prof. Michael Garrett, “the opportunity to work directly with colleagues involved in Breakthrough Listen is an important step forward in getting the UK back into the SETI business”.

Last October, the Breakthrough Initiatives announced a collaboration with the FAST telescope in China. With this latest development, the observatories collaborating on SETI searches now spans four continents.

The Jodrell Bank Center for Astrophysics operates the 76-m Lovell Telescope and the e-MERLIN array. Currently, there are proposals to upgrade the e-MERLIN telescope, expanding its frequency range in order to permit observations of proto-planetary disks and to enable the simultaneous detection and localization of transient sources, including potential SETI signals.

The Breakthrough Initiatives are a set of long-term astronomical programs exploring the Universe, seeking scientific evidence of life beyond Earth, and encouraging public debate from a planetary perspective. Breakthrough Listen, launched in July 2015, is the most comprehensive astronomical search for intelligent life ever undertaken. It employs two of the world’s biggest radio telescopes: the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, USA, and the Parkes Observatory in New South Wales, Australia; as well as the Automated Planet Finder at Lick Observatory in California, USA, which searches for laser signals.

Jodrell Bank | Leadership

  • Michael Garrett, Sir Bernard Lovell chair of Astrophysics, Director of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, University of Manchester.

Breakthrough Listen | Project Leadership

  • Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, Fellow of Trinity College; Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics, University of Cambridge.
  • Pete Worden, Chairman, Breakthrough Prize Foundation.
  • Pete Klupar, Director of Engineering, Breakthrough Initiatives.
  • Frank Drake, Chairman Emeritus, SETI Institute; Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of California, Santa Cruz; Founding Director, National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center; Former Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy, Cornell University.
  • Dan Werthimer, Co-founder and chief scientist of the SETI@home project; director of SERENDIP; principal investigator for CASPER.
  • Andrew Siemion, Director, Berkeley SETI Research Center.


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