A New Satellite Will Look For Exoplanets Says Scientist Visiting Boise

Mar 2, 2018

A new satellite from NASA launching soon will look for exoplanets in our universe. One of the scientists involved in the search is coming to Boise.

Jennifer Burt works at MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. She looks for exoplanets, planets that orbit other suns in the galaxy.

“There are exoplanets literally everywhere. We’re getting to the point where it’s hard to swing a stick without hitting a planet,” says Burt.

NASA will soon swing a new stick known as the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite or TESS for short. It could launch as soon as April 16 on a Space-X rocket and start searching for more planets.

Unlike past exoplanet missions, which looked at a tiny fraction of the sky, TESS will search almost all of it, a month at a time, for two years. 

Ground-based telescopes will then study those planets in greater detail, “to understand how common planets like Earth verses things that look like Neptune or Jupiter or Saturn are,” Burt says.

Burt says finding those Earth-like planets are important for scientists, and for ordinary Earthers.

“We’re really looking for ourselves out there in the galaxy,” Burt says.

Burt will give a talk on TESS and her exoplanet research Friday at 7:30 p.m. Boise State. Stargazing at the Boise State Observatory will follow.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

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