Penn State will play a crucial role pioneering the next giant leap forward in the realm of planetary research.
After a national competition, NASA’s Astrophysics Division selected a group led by Suvrath Mahadevan, an associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State, to construct a revolutionary planetary detection instrument called NEID.
NEID, which will be constructed by 2019, will serve as the focal point of a budding partnership between NASA and the National Science Foundation, dubbed the NASA-NSF Exoplanet Observational Research program. It will first be built at Innovation Park before being installed at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona upon completion. Once in place, the groundbreaking instrument will be available to astronomers across the globe — allowing leaders in the field to make a host of new discoveries with the advanced data it will provide.
Jason Wright, an associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics, shed some light on how the instrument operates and with how important it will be to the future of planetary research.
“NEID will be more stable than any existing spectrograph, allowing astronomers around the world to make the precise measurements of the motions of nearby, Sun-like stars,” Wright said in a release. “Our team will use NEID to discover and measure the orbits of rocky planets at the right distances from their stars to host liquid water on their surfaces.” Experts say planets will be detected by the “tiny gravitational tug they exert on their stars.”
Mahadevan expressed his excitement about the achievement, and emphasized the sheer impact this instrument could make on the field as a whole.
“We are privileged to have been selected to build this new instrument for the exoplanet community,” Mahadevan said. “This is a testament to our multi-institutional and interdisciplinary team of talented graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and senior scientists…NEID is a transformative capability in the search for worlds like our own.”