The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science or NexSS initiative by NASA will soon bring top research groups in the world together for developing a more synthesized and advanced approach for the quest for inhabitable exoplanets.
The year 1995 saw discovery of the first exoplanet called 51 Pegasi b; it is situated in an orbit surrounding a sun-like star, which makes it a part of a solar system similar to ours.
The frequency of discovery of exoplanets increased rapidly following the launch of the Kepler space telescope of NASA. The space telescope was launched in March 2009 and since then astronomers have managed to discover over a thousand exoplanets; what’s more awe-inspiring is that thousands more are on the verge of getting confirmed as exoplanets.
Astronomers are working incessantly to develop ways of finding out whether or not these worlds are habitable; in addition, they are also searching for signs indicating presence of extraterrestrial life.
Dr. Jim Green, the Director of Planetary Science at NASA, said astronomers are not the only ones interested in locating exoplanets and celestial life, climate and planetary scientists are also showing keen interest in these subjects.
NASA’s NexSS initiative is basically a virtual institute that marshal knowledge and expertise of as many as 10 globally renowned universities, a couple of top research institutes and last, but not least three NASA centers.
Through its NexSS initiative, NASA is trying to understand different components of exoplanets better; the space agency is also looking to use this initiative to gather information about the procedures adopted by neighboring planets and parent stars for interacting with each other and supporting life. All these will assist scientists in developing an effective method for looking for life on exoplanets.
Dr. Paul Hertz of NASA, when talking about this new approach by the agency, said that scientists participating in the NexSS initiative other than applying a scientific approach to the available exoplanet data will also be providing a perfect foundation for reading and understanding the observations of exoplanet missions of the future.
According to sources close to NASA, the American space agency is planning to launch three exoplanet missions in the next five years, one in 2017, the next in 2018 and the final one in 2020.