UC Berkeley's search for extraterrestrial life gets funding boost

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Russian billionaire Yuri Milner pledged $100 million to SETI, also known as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a program based out of the UC Berkeley. (KGO-TV )

In London Monday, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner pledged $100 million to SETI, also known as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a program based out of the University of California Berkeley.

The Bay Area has long been ground zero in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The funds will go towards a scientific effort that's been underway for decades and will hopefully one day answer the question: Are we alone?

Dr. Eric Korpela works on the research team at UC Berkeley that will receive the money. It buys more access to radio telescopes, new software to scan messages, more coordination for hundreds of thousands of people around the world who donate resources from their personal computers to aid in the search.

The money also buys time, 10 more years, in which they plan to survey one million likely stars. Scientists are looking for a signal, something clear and distinctive, standing out against the chaos.

"You can cover a million stars. We've never really done that in a systematic manner," Korpela said. "That's really important because you can actually cross it off the list."

Astronomers say there are more planets in the visible universe than grains of sand on all of earth's beaches. Space is so vast and stars so far apart that even if a message is uncovered, it may have taken hundreds, or even thousands of years to get here. Any reply would take just as long to get back.
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