Searching for Technological Civilisations with the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is a NASA science spacecraft whose goal is to perform a near-all-sky survey of bright stars near the Earth with the goal of detecting an estimated 1250 new exoplanets orbiting the targeted stars and another 13,000 exoplanets of other stars in the field of observation. These planets are expected to include rocky, Earth-like planets in the habitable zone of their stars which are prime candidates for follow-up observations with the James Webb Space Telescope to characterise their temperature, spectra, and atmospheres and possibly detect evidence of life.

This vast data collection can be exploited in numerous ways. This SETI Institute interview explores two ways in which the TESS data are being used to search for “technosignatures” of technological civilisations on the planets discovered. The first searches for “megastructures” seen transiting stars along with the natural planets, while the second listens for radio transmssions directed toward the Earth using its transits across our Sun (which would be visible to aliens on exoplanets in the proper orientation) as a marker to time the signal transmission.