Breakthrough Listen Initiatives use Australia’s Parkes Telescope in NSW to help search for alien life

By @vitthernandez on
Parkes Telescope
The Parkes telescope, owned by Australia’s CSIRO, is perfectly situated to observe parts of the sky not seen from the northern hemisphere. CSIRO

Two major telescopes in the northern and southern hemispheres took centre stage on the first week of November. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) completed the $8.7-billion (A$11.3 billion) James Webb Space Telescope and the Breakthrough Listen Initiative added Australia’s Parkes Telescopes to two telescopes in the US it uses to search for alien life.

Yuri Milner, founder of the Breakthrough Listen Initiatives, announced the inclusion of Parkes to the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and Automated Planet Finder at Lick Observatory in California it uses to search for alien life. He describes these three instruments are the ears of planet Earth listening for signs of other civilisations.

The Parkes telescope, owned by Australia’s CSIRO, is perfectly situated to observe parts of the sky not seen from the northern hemisphere, Dr Douglas Bock, director of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science, says. It could observe the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, large parts of the Galactic plane and other galaxies in the nearby Universe.

He adds the Parkes radio telescope is the first to discover the “fast radio burst.” It was also the first to observe Proxima Centauri, a planet which is almost the same size as Earth and orbits the nearest star to out planet’s Sun, ABC reports.

John Reynolds, CSIRO programme director, believes that exo-Earth would be a good place to start looking for other life forms. Bock adds the Parkes telescope is an Australian icon with almost 100,000 visitors.

CSIRO, together with the University of California, Berkeley, and the Swinburne University of Technology are working to design and implement a signal-processing and data storage systems for the project so that the Breakthrough Listen data would be available to the science community.

But Parkes would go beyond searching for other life forms. Professor Matthew Bailes, Australian science coordinator of the initiatives, says the NSW-based telescope would also simultaneously look for pulsars and fast radio bursts that are a large part of Parkes’ current work.