NASA joins forces with Breakthrough Listen to seek intelligent life on exoplanets

Breakthrough Listen, an initiative to find signs of intelligent life in the universe, will collaborate with scientists working on NASA’s TESS exoplanet search mission.

Breakthrough Listen

Announced this week at the International Astronautics Congress in Washington, the agreement will expand the list of Breakthrough Listen objectives, adding more than 1,000 “objects of interest” identified by TESSTransiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite ).

“It is exciting that the most powerful SETI search, with our partner facilities worldwide, is collaborating with the TESS team and our most capable planet search engine,” said Pete Worden, executive director of Breakthrough Initiatives.

“We are eager to work together as we try to answer one of the deepest questions about our place in the Universe: Are we alone?”

TESS was launched into Earth orbit in April 2018, on a mission to “hunt” exoplanets orbiting relatively nearby bright stars. To that end, measure the “light curves” (how the brightness of the stars changes over time) to look for telltale falls caused by “transits” – where a planet passes in front of the star as seen from Earth. The cutting-edge instruments in TESS are sensitive enough to detect small, rocky planets similar to Earth.

Breakthrough Listen A Dyson sphere
A Dyson sphere

A Dyson sphere is a hypothetical mega-structure around a star, which would allow an advanced civilization to take full advantage of the star’s light and thermal energy. The finding of a techofirma of such characteristics is considered within the joint search between NASA and Breakthrough.

This same strategy was used by its great predecessor, the Kepler space telescope, whose harvest is about 70% of the 4,000 known exoplanets. However, it is estimated that TESS will be even more prolific, discovering perhaps more than 10,000 new exoplanets in the course of its two-year main mission.

To date, TESS has detected more than 1,000 “objects of interest,” 29 of which have already been confirmed as planets.

Now, the Breakthrough Listen project will add TESS’s objects of interest to its list, pointing radio telescopes on Earth (Green Bank, Parkes, MeerKAT, etc.) towards them in search of techno firms, that is, signals from advanced extraterrestrial civilizations such as transmissions of radio or artificial megastructures around stars.

In this way, not only evidence of habitability and bio-spirits will be sought in distant worlds, but also of other intelligence that has achieved sufficient technological level to be detected … Although some scientists believe that, if there were very advanced civilizations out there, they would camouflage their presence in some way to avoid being found by unwanted or potentially hostile visitors.

Source: Live Science

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