NASA Is Building a Next-Generation Exoplanet Hunter

Wednesday, 30 March 2016 - 6:33PM
Space
Astronomy
Wednesday, 30 March 2016 - 6:33PM
NASA Is Building a Next-Generation Exoplanet Hunter
After a grueling national competition, NASA has just selected a team of Penn State scientists to build a cutting-edge exoplanet-detecting instrument. This $10 million project, which is expected to be completed in 2019, will be the cornerstone of a groundbreaking partnership between NASA and the NSF called the NASA-NSF Exoplanet Observational Research program (NN-EXPLORE).

The instrument itself, called NEID, will search for exoplanets by measuring the "wobble" of their stars, or the back-and-forth movement caused by the gravitational pull of surrounding orbiting planets. The extent of the wobble is generally indicative of the size of the planet, which could alert scientists to planets that are the right size to be rocky and potentially Earth-like.
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"NEID will be more stable than any existing spectrograph, allowing astronomers around the world to make the precise measurements of the motions of nearby, Sun-like stars," team member Jason Wright said in a statement. "Our team will use NEID to discover and measure the orbits of rocky planets at the right distances from their stars to host liquid water on their surfaces."
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The NEID will be built over the next three years in labs at Penn State, and will then be installed on the WIYN telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. Once the instrument is installed, the technology will be available to scientists around the world, not to mention the NN-EXPLORE partnership.

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"NEID's capabilities are critical to the success of NASA's upcoming exoplanet missions," said team member Chad Bender. "NEID will follow-up on planets discovered by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and also will identify exciting targets to be observed by the James Webb Space Telescope and the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope."
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Science
NASA
Space
Astronomy

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