We haven’t discovered life beyond our Solar System yet, but we’re closer than ever before.
Over the past 30 years, we’ve gone from zero exoplanets to thousands. With each new generation of telescopes, observatories, and scientists, we build upon our previous finds to make enormous advances that go beyond what any one person could ever produce. The ESA’s Gaia mission has surveyed more than a billion stars, identifying the closest ones that would make potentially great targets for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, if they had potentially habitable planets around them. NASA’s TESS is doing the preliminary work of observing these stars, most of which are red dwarf (M-class) stars, to find which ones actually have interesting planets that transit across their parent star’s face.
So far, we’ve found some fascinating candidates, some of which just might be humanity’s first discovery of biosignatures beyond our Solar System if we get lucky. This month, we’re so fortunate to be joined by astronomer and TESS scientist Emily Gilbert, a Ph.D. candidate who specializes in exoplanets. (And who has the delightful Twitter handle: @EmDwarf.)
Starts With A Bang is written by Ethan Siegel, Ph.D., author of Beyond The Galaxy, and Treknology: The Science of Star Trek from Tricorders to Warp Drive.