The new satellite on the hunt for alien planets

Eye in the sky: In total, scientists think that our galaxy could be home to at least 100 billion exoplanets.

Do you hope we will discover aliens one day? NASA’s newest telescope has been launched into Earth’s orbit. It will spend two years looking for planets around our nearest stars…

What’s happening

There were nerves and delays, and frantic final checks. Then, finally, the Falcon 9 space rocket was launched into orbit on Wednesday. On board was a telescope called TESS, built by NASA to search for new planets in the Milky Way. “It’s going to be a game-changer,” said the project’s scientist.

Find out more

Since 2009, the Kepler telescope has discovered 2,300 exoplanets in our galaxy. However, scientists predict that TESS will spot up to 20,000 more.

Scientists will be particularly interested in planets that have similar conditions to Earth: water, an atmosphere and warm temperatures. These planets are the most likely to be home to alien life.

What if they actually found it? TV shows and books about aliens often end in disaster, but a recent study found that most people would be excited by the discovery.

However, it would pose major questions. For example, Abrahamic religions like Christianity tend to think of humans as special, as they were created by God. Finding aliens could put these beliefs in question.

How do you think you would react?

Some say…

I would love it! Even if they are just tiny microbes, it will be exciting to find out more about them. Intelligent life is even better — imagine how much we could learn from it if we made contact. Humans do best when they are not afraid of new things, and try to see the world in new ways. That, not being alone in the universe, makes us special.

Others think…

It may not be so rosy. Regardless of religion, humans have thought of ourselves as special for thousands of years. Discovering otherwise may be terrifying, and most people do not react well to things they do not understand. What’s more, there is no guarantee that intelligent aliens will be friendly. Reaching out to them could spell our own end.

You Decide

  1. Imagine intelligent alien life has been discovered. How do you feel?

Activities

  1. An alien race has landed on Earth, and survived. Scientists have found a way to communicate with them, and they say they come in peace. Write a letter to one of the aliens. Include questions you want to ask them, and anything you think they should know about life on Earth.

Some People Say...

“Ours is a typical planet around a typical star in a typical galaxy.”

Paul Davies

What do you think?

Word Watch

Falcon 9
A type of rocket made by Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX.
TESS
An acronym for the “Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite”.
Milky Way
Earth’s home galaxy.
Exoplanets
Planets which orbit stars outside of our own Solar System.
Atmosphere
A layer of gases surrounding a planet which help to protect it from harmful radiation.
Abrahamic
Religions which believe in the prophet Abraham, including Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
Microbes
Microscopic living things, such as bacteria.

Subjects

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.