S.H.I.E.L.D. had better watch out. NASA has just assembled the Avengers—of space scientists. Dubbed the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS), it is a team of scientists reaching across various disciplines whose for the common goal of searching for life on distant exoplanets far outside our own solar system. NASA and the scientific community realized that although different researchers had the same goal of finding biosignatures, or life on other planets, no one was regularly communicating with scientists outside his own discipline.
NASA director of Planetary Science, Jim Greene states, “The hunt for exoplanets is not only a priority for astronomers, it’s of keen interest to planetary and climate scientists as well.” Conclusions researchers draw from sharing data could be useful on our own planet as well, leading to new discoveries about our origin and place in the universe.
We only discovered our first exoplanet in 1995. The methods we use to observe space have improved a great deal since then. NASA launched its Kepler space telescope in 2009, allowing us to search through a small portion of our own Milky Way Galaxy for exoplanets that could be hospitable to live. Since its launch, Kepler has discovered over 1,000 exoplanets in its fixed view of 145,000 stars.
Everyone from Earth scientists to heliophysicists will be brought together under the NExSS wing to collaborate in a common goal. Also included in team NExSS are research groups from 12 universities and research centers whose theses are outlined here.
Source: NASA JPL