New Exoplanet Exploration Method Involves Radiation Study


NASA’s Explorers Program has two finalists for $145 million in funding to develop new means for determining the habitability of neighboring exoplanets. Extreme-ultraviolet Stellar Characterization for Atmospheric Physics and Evolution (ESCAPE)and the Gravitation-wave Ultraviolet Counterpart Imager are the two remaining projects that are competing for the final touchdown.

Scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) are responsible for ESCAPE. Astrophysicist Kevin France is the principal investigator. Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, and the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy at CU Boulder are also affiliated to the research.

Kevin France and his extended team received $2 million from NASA to be used for developing their proposal. Explorers Program’s deadline is due in 2021. His approach is revolutionary. With the help of his instrument, France intends to detect exoplanets’ habitability by measuring the levels of radiation emitted by nearby stars and not by directly seeking planets and then check its habitability.

The new way to find habitable exoplanets is ESCAPE

If there is life, then an atmosphere must exist. If there is a star emitting radiation, then the planet’s atmosphere will be impacted by it, and the highest atmospheric layers will absorb those radiations. The new satellite will find those radiations and the impact they have on the surrounding atmospheres.

“We must measure the extreme ultraviolet radiation from exoplanet host stars to be able to say whether or not exoplanets can hang on to their atmospheres,” said Allison Youngblood, a research scientist at LASP.

They now have $2 million and 9 months to make and test engineering models that will help demonstrate that their plan has chances to do what it says it will once it is out there. It is also expected that the satellite will help detect the light emitted during explosions caused by bursts of gravitational waves, besides finding habitable exoplanets.