Hold onto your hats, folks, because NASA just revealed they’re about to discuss the details of a major finding beyond our solar system. A news conference has been scheduled for Wednesday 22nd February, 1pm Eastern, during which a panel of experts will gather to field questions on the findings and reveal, for the first time, what it is they are so excited about.
It’s not clear exactly what the announcement will reveal, but we do know it will center on a planet or planets orbiting a star other than our own, otherwise known as exoplanets.
Such a major announcement would not be scheduled if this was just a regular exoplanet discovery, which would suggest that we could be looking at the discovery of either an extremely Earth-like exoplanet, or some exciting atmospheric readings. If NASA scientists have managed to detect oxygen in the atmosphere of a rocky exoplanet orbiting within its host star’s habitable zone, it would greatly increase the chances that alien life is able to exist there.
Exoplanet discovery is one of the most exciting frontiers of science right now, not least because it’s experiencing a massive uptick in activity. Thanks to tools such as the Kepler Space Telescope, our knowledge of planets orbiting stars other than our own has grown exponentially in the last few years.
Multiple Earth-like exoplanets have been among the hundreds of discoveries made since the late nineties, giving us hope that we may one day be able to find a planet close enough to Earth for human colonization. Last year, an exoplanet was discovered orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our solar system. Proxima Centauri B, as the planet was named, orbits within its star’s habitable zone, meaning that its atmospheric temperatures could allow for liquid water to be present on the planet’s surface. Should such a discovery be confirmed, it could be the most important exoplanet finding of all time.
You can watch the announcement live on this page via the player below at 1pm ET on Wednesday 22nd February, and by using the hashtag #askNASA on Twitter, you’ll be able to submit your questions to the expert panel.
A list of the panelists attending the announcement can be seen below:
· Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington
· Michael Gillon, astronomer at the University of Liege in Belgium
· Sean Carey, manager of NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC, Pasadena, California
· Nikole Lewis, astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore
· Sara Seager, professor of planetary science and physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
Images Credits: NASA