March 21, 2008

Google Enters the Field of Exoplanetology

Google joins the the hunt for exoplanets by funding the development of the wide-field digital cameras needed for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). TESS, a satellite-based observatory for hunting Earth-like planets is currently being designed by MIT scientists. TESS would perform its transit method of exoplanet-detection high above the clouds - a big advantage over its ground-based counterparts who use the same technique. Ground-based telescopes are obscured by the earth's atmosphere, hence their resolution is limited in detecting much smaller terrestrial planets like the earth. But a space-based telescope like TESS, being free of interference from atmospheric clouds and dust, will be able to resolve light coming from distant stars in much greater detail, allowing it to detect Earth-like planets, as well as those with larger orbits. Now, more resolution means more data - and this is where Google has shown interest as well - processing huge amounts of data to find useful information. But hold on to your horses though, TESS won't be launched until 2012. So the concept logo for Google Exoplanetology (designed by yours truly) might not be used...yet?

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