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NASA's Exoplanet Superheroes

NASA has some pretty amazing technology for discovering exoplanets and even the moons of exoplanets (see Gas Giant Exoplanet Can Has Moons?); now they even have a pretty amazing video:

To capture finer details – detecting atmospheres on small, rocky planets like Earth, for instance, to seek potential signs of habitability – astronomers knew they needed what we might call “superhero” telescopes, capable of blasting off the surface into orbit.

“While ground-based telescopes showed us that it is indeed possible to discover new planets, it’s often space-based facilities that allow us to advance from initial detections to well-understood worlds,” said Jennifer Burt, an exoplanet scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

Over the past few decades, a team of now-legendary space telescopes answered the call: Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, Kepler, TESS, and now, the Webb telescope.

(Via NASA)

Golden Age science fiction master Edmond Hamilton described the idea of an automated habitable planet-finding telescope in his 1936 short story Cosmic Quest:

I was near enough it now to set my automatic astronomical instruments to searching it for a habitable planet.

These instruments were the wonderful ones our astronomers had perfected. With super-telescopic eyes each one scanned a part of the star field before them. And each mechanical eye, when it found planetary systems in its field, automatically shifted upon them a higher powered telespectroscope which recorded on permanent film the size, mean temperature and atmospheric conditions of these worlds.
(Read more about Hamilton's search for habitable planets)


(The telespectroscope recorded the conditions of these other worlds)

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