Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, and two of the world’s richest and most intelligent men, Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner and physicist Stephen Hawking, are hoping to be the first to find alien life.
The trio exclusively revealed to MailOnline that they will be listening to signals from ‘Earth 2.0’
They are funding an ambitious $100 million (£76 million) project known as ‘Breakthrough Listen’, which will use the world’s most powerful telescopes to listen to messages from Proxima b, the official name of the rocky planet, which is believed to have the right conditions to harbour life and is just four light years from Earth.
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The report said in August, astronomers found clear evidence that our nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is the sun to another Earth-like world.
‘It came only a few months after Stephen Hawking and I, with Mark Zuckerberg’s support, launched our Breakthrough Starshot project, which aims to launch a tiny spacecraft to Alpha Centauri within a generation.
‘At the time, we hoped there was a planet in the Centauri system, but we didn’t know.
‘Now we have a definite target. That makes the mission feel more tangible,’ Milner told the paper.
It said thousands of exoplanets have been discovered before, but unlike the others, scientists say Proxima b is within our reach.
Four light years is a long way – more than 25 trillion miles, however, future generations of super-fast spacecraft could conceivably travel to the planet within the next few decades, according to the report.
It said much further in the future the planet may even be colonised by space travellers from Earth.
One of the backers of the project, Professor Hawking, says we should be wary of contacting aliens if we find them.
He said if we were to meet an advanced civilisation, it could be similar to when the Native Americans first encountered Christopher Columbus – and ‘that didn’t turn out so well’.
He says it’s better for us to find aliens before they find us.