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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

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
8 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats' billionaires tax explained

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

There is now legislative language behind the push to tax American billionaires on unrealized capital gains, as Sen. Ron Wyden last night released his 107-page plan.

Why it matters: This would be a sea change in U.S. tax policy, which has only applied to realized gains (otherwise known as income).

54 mins ago - World

Scoop: Blinken protests Israel settlements approval in "tense" phone call

Benny Gantz (L) and Tony Blinken. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/Pool/AFP via Getty

Secretary of State Tony Blinken protested the decision to approve 3,000 new housing units in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank during a tense phone call on Tuesday with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, three Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: This is the first time new construction in the settlements has been approved since President Biden assumed office, and the Biden administration had been privately pressing the Israeli government not to proceed.

The startup that wants to disrupt big internet providers

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A new startup backed by funding from AOL founder Steve Case and Laurene Powell Jobs wants to break up broadband monopolies across the country.

Why it matters: Internet access has been crucial during the pandemic, but it's not ubiquitous, and it can be both slow and unaffordable in swaths of the country.

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