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A star (left) and the Large Magellanic Cloud (right) seen by TESS. Photo: NASA/MIT/TESS

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.

Go deeper

The new Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Axios subject-matter experts brief you on the incoming administration's plans and team.

Rep. Lou Correa tests positive for COVID-19

Lou Correa. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) announced on Saturday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Correa is the latest Democratic lawmaker to share his positive test results after last week's deadly Capitol riot. Correa did not shelter in the designated safe zone with his congressional colleagues during the siege, per a spokesperson, instead staying outside to help Capitol Police.

Far-right figure "Baked Alaska" arrested for involvement in Capitol siege

Photo: Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The FBI arrested far-right media figure Tim Gionet, known as "Baked Alaska," on Saturday for his involvement in last week's Capitol riot, according to a statement of facts filed in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia.

The state of play: Gionet was arrested in Houston on charges related to disorderly or disruptive conduct on the Capitol grounds or in any of the Capitol buildings with the intent to impede, disrupt, or disturb the orderly conduct of a session, per AP.

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