“Beyond Kepler” –NASA Reveals Plans to Probe Milky Way’s Center for Habitable Planets


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NASA’s Wide Field Instrument will use Gravitational microlensing to complete the survey of exoplanets down to ten times smaller than the earth starting in mid-2020s. It will have a field of view that is 100 times greater than the Hubble infrared instrument, capturing more of the sky with less observing time. As the primary instrument, the Wide Field Instrument will measure light from a billion galaxies over the course of the mission lifetime.

It will perform a microlensing survey of the inner Milky Way to find 2,600 exoplanets. The Coronagraph Instrument will perform high contrast imaging and spectroscopy of dozens of individual nearby exoplanets.



Complete a census of exoplanets to help answer new questions about the potential for life in the universe: How common are solar systems like our own? What kinds of planets exist in the cold, outer regions of planetary systems? – What determines the habitability of Earth-like worlds? This census makes use of a technique that can find exoplanets down to a mass only a few times that of the Moon.



WFIRST, the Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope, is a NASA observatory designed to settle essential questions in the areas of dark energy, exoplanets, and infrared astrophysics. The telescope has a primary mirror that is 2.4 meters in diameter (7.9 feet), and is the same size as the Hubble Space Telescope’s primary mirror. WFIRST will have two instruments, the Wide Field Instrument, and the Coronagraph Instrument.




Gravitational microlensing will also enable a survey of rogue exoplanets that are not around stars.

The Daily Galaxy via NASA

Image credit top of page: pics-about-space.com

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