Breakthrough Listen: Expanding the Search for Life Beyond Earth

Steve Croft

University of California, Berkeley           

The $100M, 10-year philanthropic "Breakthrough Listen" project is driving an unprecedented expansion of the search for intelligent life beyond Earth. Modern instruments allow ever larger regions of parameter space (luminosity, duty cycle, frequency coverage) to be explored, which will enable us to place meaningful physical limits on the prevalence of transmitting civilizations. Data volumes are huge, and preclude long-term storage of the raw data products, so real-time and machine learning processing techniques must be employed to identify candidate signals as well as simultaneously classifying interfering sources. However, the Galaxy is now known to be a target-rich environment, teeming with habitable planets, in addition to intriguing objects such as Boyajian's Star. Data from Breakthrough Listen can also be used by researchers in other areas of astronomy to study pulsars, fast transient sources, or a range of other science targets.

Breakthrough Listen is already underway in the optical and radio bands, and is also engaging with Square Kilometer Array precursors to explore the pathway to SETI science with SKA. I will discuss the technology, science goals, data products, and roadmap of Breakthrough Listen, as we attempt to answer one of humanity's oldest questions: Are we alone?