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New partnership between SKA precursor telescope MeerKAT & SETI programme Breakthrough Listen

Bremen, Germany – October 2, 2018 – Breakthrough Listen, the global initiative to seek signs of intelligent life in the universe – announced today at the International Astronautical Congress the commencement of a major new programme with the MeerKAT telescope in partnership with the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO).

Breakthrough Listen’s MeerKAT survey will examine a million individual stars – 1,000 times the number of targets in any previous search – in the quietest part of the radio spectrum, monitoring for signs of extraterrestrial technology. With the addition of MeerKAT’s observations to its existing surveys, Listen will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in parallel with other surveys.

Observations will occur in a commensal mode – at the same time as other astrophysics programs. Using sophisticated processing, Breakthrough Listen scientists will digitally point the telescope at targets of interest. This means that the Breakthrough Listen instrument at MeerKAT will be operating almost continuously, scanning the skies for signs of intelligent life.

“Collaborating with MeerKAT will significantly enhance the capabilities of Breakthrough Listen”, said Yuri Milner, founder of the Breakthrough Initiatives.

“It’s great to see the interest in the newly-inaugurated MeerKAT already extending beyond its core programme” said Prof. Philip Diamond, the SKA’s Director-General. “Securing partnerships with major private institutions like Breakthrough is a testament to the game-changing capability of facilities like MeerKAT, and brings additional resources that support their long-term operation.”

The Breakthrough Initiatives’ Executive Director, Pete Worden, commented, “Listen and MeerKAT are developing next-generation technology and techniques that will ultimately lead to proposals for searches with the Square Kilometre Array. This is an exciting moment for SETI and radio astronomy in general.”

Read the full release on Breakthrough’s website.