Neither Breakthrough Listen nor any other SETI project has picked up a compelling narrow-band radio signal — one that’s at a single spot on the radio dial — that clearly originates from a source beyond our solar system.
Their long-term goal is to target a million star systems — exceeding by hundreds of times the total number of targets scrutinized by SETI since the birth of the field 60 years ago.
So it’s notable that Breakthrough Listen, a privately funded, decadelong research project based at the University of California, Berkeley, just announced a significant number of new observations.
The Breakthrough Listen initiative studied about 1,300 nearby stars using several telescopes, including the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia that is pictured here.
The basic premise of SETI — that we live in a galaxy festooned with brainy societies — rests upon the hypothesis that there must be many habitats in the Milky Way where complex biology has had a chance to evolve and thrive.
But Breakthrough Listen at least has refined the equipment, developed the software and trained a half-dozen grad students, all with the intention of continuing and expanding the search.
It may be that there is an abundance of inhabited worlds but that 21st century SETI technology — mostly listening for alien radio signals — is incapable of detecting them.