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Will Humans Ever Walk on Exoplanets?

18 Dec 2019, 13:27 UTC
Will Humans Ever Walk on Exoplanets?
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Searching for biosignatures in exoplanet atmospheres is something we can look forward to in as little as a decade, judging from the progress now being made in planning future ground- and space-based telescopes. A key challenge is to catalog habitable zone planets upon which to practice our methods, and our tools for doing this are steadily evolving. Take ESPRESSO (Echelle Spectrograph for Rocky OxoPlanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations), which can reduce a star’s movement to or away from us down to a minute 10 centimeters per second.
You can imagine what this means for radial velocity studies, which now routinely parse the to-and-fro of stellar motions as a way of detecting exoplanets. The smaller the gravitational effect we can detect, the sharper our observations, bringing much smaller planets in range. We move from hot Jupiters and Neptunes into the realm of Earth-mass worlds around stars like the Sun. Commissioned in 2017, ESPRESSO is installed at the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile, and exoplanet hunter Nuno Santos intends to put it to good use.

Image: The Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations (ESPRESSO) successfully made its first observations in November 2017. Installed on ESO’s Very ...

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