Telescope hitching ride on a SpaceX rocket designed to spot alien worlds
TESS will give us a new view of our galactic neighborhood.
Astronomers using data from NASA’s extended Kepler mission, known as K2, have discovered 95 new exoplanets, with sizes ranging from mostly rocky super-Earths and fluffy mini-Neptunes to Jupiter-like gaseous giants.
In NASA’s efforts to explore the endless expanse of space, the agency eventually came to a realization: there is simply too much data. Missions like the one embarked upon in 2009 by the Kepler space telescope yield such a tremendous amount of data that there’s no efficient way for an individual scientist or even a team of scientists at NASA to pour through it all. That’s when they made a realization — instead of handling everything internally, NASA could make this data publicly available so that citizen scientists all over the world would be able to dig in.
Worlds with a permanent day and night side aren’t obvious places to look in the search for extraterrestrial life. Apart from having extremes of temperature, such planets would make it hard for a biological clock to get going.
Since the mid-1990s, when the first planet around another sun-like star was discovered, astronomers have been amassing what is now a large collection of exoplanets—nearly 3,500 have been confirmed so far.
After NASA announced in February the discovery of a solar system with seven planets—three of which were deemed potentially habitable—UChicago postdoctoral scholar Sebastiaan Krijt began wondering: If a life form existed on one of these planets, could space debris carry it to another?
Ever since enthusiasm started growing over the possibility that there could be a ninth major planet orbiting the sun beyond Neptune, astronomers have been busy hunting it.