A NEW collaboration between Breakthrough Listen and NASA to hunt for signs of advanced extraterrestrial life in the universe has been launched this month.
Breakthrough Listen, the non-profit initiative to find signs of intelligent life in the universe, announced at the Astronautical Congress in Washington DC that it will be working with scientists working on NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).
The new initiative will expand Breakthrough Listen’s target list by adding more than 1000 ‘objects of interest’ identified by TESS.
It will also refine Breakthrough Listen’s analysis strategy and ‘provide more meaningful statistics in the event of non-detections’.
Dr Pete Worden, Executive Director of the Breakthrough Initiatives, said: “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.
“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?”
TESS measures ‘lightcurves’ (how the brightness of stars changes over time) to look ‘transits’ – a drip in the star’s light caused by a planet passing between it and earth.
The cutting-edge instruments on TESS are sensitive enough to detect small, rocky planets similar to Earth. Such planets are prime targets for follow-up by NASA programs, such as the James Webb Space Telescope.
The team will measure atmospheric composition to look for biosignatures. Astrobiologists will also search for technosignatures – signals coming from space that appear to have arisen from transmitters, propulsion devices, or other engineering.
MIT professor Sara Seager said: “We are very enthusiastic about joining the Breakthrough Listen SETI search.
“Out of all the exoplanet endeavours only SETI holds the promise for identifying signs of intelligent life.”
Breakthrough Listen is a scientific program which searches for evidence of technological life in the Universe. It aims to survey one million nearby stars, the entire galactic plane and 100 nearby galaxies at a wide range of radio and optical bands.