Researchers from NASA will launch a special satellite to study the atmospheres of exoplanets. In the future, they can become a potential habitat for humans.
NASA plans to launch a small satellite called Pandora that will help explore the atmosphere of planets outside our solar system. The idea is to use this satellite to look at atmospheres in both the visible and infrared wavelengths in order to understand their composition.
Many current missions focus on detecting exoplanets or studying more detailed information about them, such as their mass and distance from the star. The goal of the next generation of exoplanetary missions is to learn more about the atmospheres of these planets, such as what they are made of.
“Science is gradually moving from the era of discovering planets to the era of describing their atmospheres,” said Eliza Quintana, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “Pandora will focus on trying to understand how stellar activity affects our measurements of exoplanet atmospheres, which will set the stage for future missions to find planets with atmospheres similar to Earth.”
This project is part of NASA’s Pioneers Project, a low-cost mission to further explore space objects. Satellites like Pandora are much cheaper to manufacture and launch — including the TESS planet finder or the James Webb Space Telescope.
“Pandora’s long-term observations in visible and infrared light are unique and well suited to our research. We are delighted that NASA will play a pivotal role in finding other worlds that could potentially be habitable.”
The researchers added that thousands of exoplanets have been discovered over the past decade, knowing their atmospheres is key to identifying planets that could potentially become habitats in the future.