It seems NASA’s chief scientist wasn’t kidding when she said we should find signs of alien life within the next decade — because the space agency is launching its most ambitious initiative yet to find some aliens.
Dubbed The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS), the effort aims to bring experts from a variety of sciences together in the hopes that we’ll be able to better understand the makeup of exoplanets in other systems, and how the region around them affects the type of life that could potentially develop there. The endeavor will include planetary scientists, earth scientists, heliophysicists and astrophysicists.
"This interdisciplinary endeavor connects top research teams and provides a synthesized approach in the search for planets with the greatest potential for signs of life," says Jim Green, NASA's Director of Planetary Science. "The hunt for exoplanets is not only a priority for astronomers, it's of keen interest to planetary and climate scientists as well."
NASA notes that the study of planets around other stars is still in its infancy, since it was just 20 years ago that we found the first exoplanet orbiting a star similar to our solar system. In the years since, we’ve found more than 1,000 exoplanets — and there could be a whole lot more than that. Through NExSS, NASA hopes to study the interaction of everything from the atmosphere to the planet’s geology to figure out what we might still be missing.
The first phases of the NExSS initiative will launch in 2017, with plans to roll out more aspects of the study in the early 2020s.
What do you think we’ll find out there?