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The TESS Mission: A Search for E.T. - Livestream

As one of the most advanced photometric survey instruments, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has observed tens of millions of stars since 2018. Many of these stars display variable light output caused by various natural sources, including transits by surrounding exoplanets. With thousands of planet systems now known thanks to TESS and other platforms, is it possible that any of them could harbor life, and even more interestingly, intelligent and technological life?

Theories posit that if intelligent civilizations exist in our galaxy, they might put artificial energy harvesting structures into orbit around their host star. Astronomers believe it’s possible to detect this phenomenon by watching stellar brightness dim each time a structure passes in front of the star. One of the best places to find so-called alien megstructures is the uniquely large dataset provided by TESS. This NASA mission offers additional opportunities to search for advanced extraterrestrial life associated with already known exoplanets. As part of the Breakthrough Listen Initiative, SETI scientists observe each TESS transiting planet system using the Green Bank Telescope and the Allen Telescope Array in the hope of detecting a radio transmitter relatively nearby in the Galaxy.

To explore the possibility of finding technosignatures within the TESS dataset, we invited two scientists to discuss their recent work. Ann Marie Cody, Principal Investigator with the SETI Institute's Carl Sagan Center, has received funding from NASA to survey the TESS data set to detect a megastructures, similar to Dyson spheres, in orbit around those star systems. Noah Franz, a researcher at Berkeley SETI and Siena College, led an article reporting on the search for technosignatures in radio using the Green Bank Telescope for several targets of the TESS catalog.

Together with Franck Marchis, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute and Chief Scientific Officer at Unistellar, the team will discuss the advancement of these techniques in light of today’s known 5,000 confirmed exoplanets and 4,000 TESS candidate exoplanets. The researchers will examine the impact of their research in the framework of astrobiology and how any discoveries of an odd signal or a weird signature could bring meaningful scientific information, even if it is not (yet) E.T.

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Wednesday, 05/18/22


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SETI Institute

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