Feb 18, 2020 - Science

$100 million project to hunt for alien life releases trove of data

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A privately funded hunt for intelligent extraterrestrial life has turned up empty so far, but a newly released trove of data could aid in the search.

The big picture: The search for alien life has gone mainstream in recent years, with multiple scientific ventures looking for radio signals that could signify the presence of intelligent civilizations somewhere else out there.

What's happening: The $100 million Breakthrough Listen project released almost 2 petabytes of data last week, including a survey of radio signals from various parts of our galaxy.

  • The project also searched for "technosignatures" emitting from the interstellar comet 2I/Borisov that came through the solar system last year, but didn't find any.
  • The new data includes the results of a hunt for signs of life around 20 stars that could, in theory, detect our planet in the way that scientists on Earth see other worlds.
"Because I purposely looked at nearby targets, my search was sensitive enough to locate a transmitter on par with the strongest transmitters on Earth. We can infer that there is nothing as strong as our Arecibo telescope beaming a signal toward us."
— Sofia Sheikh, who conducted the analysis, said in a statement

The intrigue: Only about 20% of Breakthrough Listen's total data has been analyzed so far, so it's still possible some exciting new findings could come from the raw data as scientists continue to pore over it.

Go deeper: The search for life as we don't know it

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The Earth's gentle start

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The early Earth and other rocky planets may have formed quickly and gently, not violently through collapse and collision, as previously thought.

Why it matters: The details of Earth's formation are a long-standing mystery tied to how life may have arisen.

Go deeperArrowMar 3, 2020 - Science

NASA's next Mars rover is named Perseverance

Artist's illustration of the Perseverance rover on Mars. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's next Mars rover, expected to launch to the Red Planet in July, is officially named Perseverance.

The big picture: Once on Mars, the mission is designed to search out possible signs of past life on the planet and cache samples for a future mission to return back to Earth one day.

Go deeperArrowMar 5, 2020 - Science

Senators call for antitrust review of Google search practices

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

A bipartisan pair of senators, in a letter Tuesday, are urging the Justice Department to investigate Google's search operations as well as its advertising business.

The big picture: The letter from Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) comes as the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee holds a Tuesday hearing on ways that digital platforms favor themselves over their competitors.