NASA NExSS Team to Lead Search for Life on Distant Planets

Life in outer space has been an ongoing topic of interest for countless years. NASA plans to further this research with a team of professionals from the University of Arizona. This group will carry out an analysis of Earth-like features on nearby stars. This is part of the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) program, which is comprised of a group of members from three NASA centers, ten universities, and two research institutes. Director of Planetary Science at NASA Jim Green stated, “This interdisciplinary endeavor connects top research teams and provides a synthesized approach in the search for planets with the greatest potential for signs of life. The hunt for exoplanets is not only a priority for astronomers, it's of keen interest to planetary and climate scientists as well." With the first discovery of an exoplanet in 1995, research in this field has attracted scientists and researchers across the globe.

With the launch of the Kepler space telescope in 2009, NASA have explored more than 1,000 exoplanets with over a thousand more in consideration. Directory of the Astrophysics Division at NASA, Paul Hertz, explained, "NExSS scientists will not only apply a systems science approach to existing exoplanet data, their work will provide a foundation for interpreting observations of exoplanets from future exoplanet missions such as TESS, JWST, and WFIRST." Lead by Steven Desch, the Arizona State University team, located in Phoenix, has made a goal to obtain the “periodic table of planets.” They hope to model the atmospheres of the world with the knowledge of every planet in its place. Furthermore, a team at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, led by Adam Jensen, plans to explore the outer portions of the atmosphere around the planets. If they can discover the trace of hydrogen around a planets’ surface, they may be able to make necessary conclusions about the planets’ properties, including the prospect of life.

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