The race to find exoplanets — planets outside our solar system — continues to quicken. Last week NASA researchers announced that the agency’s new space telescope, Kepler, has discovered five new exoplanets, expanding the number of known exoplanets to 422, an increase of about 25 percent in the past year alone. A satellite proposed by MIT researchers could accelerate these discoveries and even detect hundreds of Earth-sized planets — a few of which could be natural candidates for life.The MIT team, led by Senior Research Scientist George Ricker of the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, is awaiting NASA approval for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which would conduct the first-ever spaceborne survey of transiting planets, or planets that pass in front of their host stars as seen from Earth. By searching a region of the sky 400 times larger than revealed by Kepler’s scope, TESS would observe 2.5 million of...
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