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LISA, the European Space Agency’s planned Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, scheduled for launch in 2034. will comprise three spacecraft, arranged in a triangular formation, 2.5 million kilometers apart designed to function as an enormous, orbiting gravitational wave detector. With only a minor technological tweak LISA, could also function as a detector for signals broadcast by advanced extraterrestrial civilizations, according to Marek Abramowicz of Sweden’s University of Gothenburg.

In a new study, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI) in Potsdam and from the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in Saclay, Paris propose detecting exoplanets orbiting ancient white dwarf binaries in the Milky Way.

“In the quest for extraterrestrial biological signatures, the first stars we study should be white dwarfs,” said Avi Loeb, theorist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who was not involved in the new study . “Although the closest habitable planet might orbit a red dwarf star, the closest one we can easily prove to be life-bearing might orbit a white dwarf.”

“LISA is going to target an exoplanet population yet completely unprobed,” says Nicola Tamanini, researcher at the AEI in Potsdam. This new method will overcome certain limitations of current electromagnetic detection techniques and might allow LISA to detect planets down to 50 Earth masses.

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