Search for alien life just got 1,000 times bigger after new telescope joins the hunt

A pair of dishes from the MeerKAT telescope in South Africa. The night sky is covered with radio bubbles observed through the telescope. Credit: South Africa Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO)

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One of the world’s largest telescopes has just joined the hunt for signs of extraterrestrial life elsewhere in the cosmos.

Since 2016, the Breakthrough Listen project has been quietly using radio telescopes to listen for unusual radio signals, or technosignatures, from potentially advanced alien civilizations within the Milky Way. The project, launched in part by the late Stephen Hawking and funded by Israeli entrepreneur Yuri Milner, already uses the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia in the United States and the Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia, as well as other radio telescopes from around the world to scan nearby stars. But now the MeerKAT telescope — an array of 64 separate dishes in South Africa and currently the largest radio telescope in the southern hemisphere — has joined the party.

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