NASA is Funding New Tool that Determines Density of Distant Planets


The National Science Foundation and NASA are funding a new instrument – NEID. NEID will help the researchers to measure the masses of celestial bodies and plants that are outside of our solar system. Researchers are able to weigh these exoplanets by analyzing their gravitational pull on the parent. This information will help in revealing the composition of the planet. It is one of the vital aspects while determining the possible habitability of any planet.

Recently, NEID recorded its first observation on the WIYN telescope. The WIYN telescope is 3.5 meter (11.5 food) long and is at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. NEID observed the 51 Pegasi exoplanet. In 1995, it was the first Sun like celestial body known to have an exoplanet.

The observatory is in the Tohono O’odham Nation. Pronunciation of NEID roughly translates as ‘to see’ in the native language. The instrument is capable of finding and analyzing planets using the technique of radial velocity. In this technique, the researchers measure what makes the star wobble because of gravitational pull of the orbiting planet. Bigger the planet, stronger is its gravitational pull. This makes the star wobble or move faster. The instrument allows scientists to observe distant celestial bodies are determine their density.

Gauging Planet’s Habitable Potential By Measuring its Density

With precise measurements of the mass and diameter of a planet, researchers are also able to determine it density. Determination of density can typically reveal whether the planet is gaseous like Saturn or Jupiter or rocky like Mars or Earth. This is a huge step towards discovering possible habitable planets similar to Earth. After trying this technique on several planets, it offers a highly comprehensible view of most common types of planets across the universe. It also explains the formation of different types of planetary systems.

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