Oct 29, 2019 - Science
Project to hunt for alien life adds more than 1,000 new targets
The Breakthrough Listen project announced it will search for signs of intelligent alien life on planets discovered by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).
Why it matters: This collaboration will allow the project to add more than 1,000 possible worlds to its list of SETI targets.
- “Out of all the exoplanet endeavors, only SETI holds the promise for identifying signs of intelligent life,” TESS’ Sara Seager said in a statement.
Details: Breakthrough Listen is expected to use telescopes around the globe to scan worlds discovered by TESS for radio signals.
- TESS finds planets by waiting for them to pass between their host star and the telescope, causing a minuscule dip in the star’s light.
- Because of its detection method, TESS’ planets are seen edge-on, which could be beneficial when hunting for radio waves because signals that “leak” from Earth into space are mostly seen along the planet’s orbital plane.
- Researchers working with the project will also look at those light curves for “anomalies” to see if perhaps an intelligent society has built a structure around a star that could affect the way its transit looks.
Yes, but: It’s not going to be easy to pick up radio signals from a world circling a star that’s light-years away from Earth.
- “I think that the chances of just picking up a leaked signal are probably pretty small because none of these stars are really all that close,” NASA's Steve Howell told Axios.
- However, it would likely be easier to pick up a radio signal purposefully sent out by an alien civilization.
Background: Scientists have yet to find a true Earth twin out there in the universe, and current technology isn’t equipped to do so.
- Future telescopes, however, should be able to investigate the atmospheres of alien worlds to possibly detect biosignatures like oxygen that would point to life.