Two astronomers have rethought the search for extraterrestrial intelligence by creating a “star map” of exoplanets that have a direct line of sight on our planet when they cross in front of our sun.
Transits provide important information about the composition and atmosphere of a planet and thus about the viability of life.
Lisa Kaltenegger, associate professor of astronomy at Cornell College for the Arts and Sciences in New York and director of the Carl Sagan Institute, and Joshua Pepper, associate professor of physics at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, compiled a list of 1,004 potentially habitable exoplanets with Sun- like together stars, all within 326 light years (100 parsecs) of Earth.
Using data from NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) star catalog and the Gaia star map, the pair have reduced large numbers of exoplanets to those who would be able to discover traces of life on our planet if similarly advanced civilizations would have our own.
The exoplanets all align themselves with the earth’s ecliptic or orbit around the sun, which would give them a perspective for observing our biosphere.
Approximately 508 of the planets on the list have a window of at least 10 hours in which the Earth can be seen in each orbit.
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“Let us reverse the perspective to that of other stars and ask from what point of view other observers could find the earth as a transit planet.” Said Kaltenegger.
“If we are looking for an intelligent life in the universe that wants to find us and get in touch” She added “We just made the map that we should look at first.”
With NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launch in 2021, our own transit observations of potentially habitable exoplanets in the universe will increase massively.
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