NASA's Planet-Hunting Probe Joins the Search for Intelligent Aliens | 10/23/2019 | Mike Wall
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NASA's newest planet hunter is joining the hunt for intelligent aliens.

Scientists working on the space agency's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission will collaborate with the $100 million Breakthrough Listen project in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), members of both teams announced today (Oct. 23).

World - SETI - Search - Partner - Facilities

"It's exciting that the world's most powerful SETI search, with our partner facilities across the globe, will be collaborating with the TESS team and our most capable planet-hunting machine," Pete Worden, executive director of Breakthrough Initiatives, a program that includes the Breakthrough Listen project, said in a statement.

"We're looking forward to working together as we try to answer one of the most profound questions about our place in the universe: Are we alone?" Worden added.

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TESS launched to Earth orbit in April 2018, on a mission to hunt for alien planets circling bright, relatively nearby stars. The spacecraft does this work via the "transit method," which looks for slight dips in star brightness caused when an orbiting planet crosses the star's face from TESS' perspective.

Strategy - Effect - TESS - Predecessor - NASA

This strategy was used to great effect by TESS' predecessor, NASA's Kepler space telescope, which discovered about 70% of the 4,000 or so known alien worlds. But TESS will likely be even more prolific, finding perhaps 10,000 or more new exoplanets over the course of its two-year primary mission, team members have said.

To date, TESS has spotted more than 1,000 "objects of interest," 29 of which are confirmed alien planets.

TESS - Stars - Sun - Neighborhood - Mission

Because TESS is focusing on stars in the sun's cosmic neighborhood, some of the mission's finds will be suitable for follow-up studies by other instruments. For example, NASA's powerful James Webb Space Telescope, an $8.8 billion observatory scheduled to launch in 2021, should be able to probe the atmospheres of multiple TESS-discovered planets for biosignature gases, agency...
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