Before getting back into my usual posts, I wanted to share something this week:
Source - NASA/JPL
In two of my classes, I have been hearing about and researching missions relevant to exoplanets. There is New Worlds Observer, a proposed NASA mission that will send a starshade thousands of kilometers in front of a space telescope, blocking out much of a host star's light so that we can image the planets. There is Gaia, an ESA mission to be launched in 2013 that will map the positions of a thousand million stars over five years, which will identify any stars that are changing motion due to the gravitaional pull of planets. There is FINESSE, another proposed NASA mission that will study a few hundred exoplanets and their atmospheres using transits.
Source - NASA and Northrop Grumman - New Worlds Observer artist's concept
There is a lot to look forward to. But whenever I see that first image, which shows how large our search area is for most exoplanets compared to our Galaxy, I simply tend to lean back in my seat, and think, once again: There is a lot to look forward to.