NASA is onto something big regarding exoplanets, a discovery which they plan to share in a news conference to be held Wednesday 22nd February at 1pm local time in New York, an agency press release stated.
Agency personnel, as well as astronomers and planetary scientists, will be attending. They include Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, Michael Gillon, astronomer at the University of Liege in Belgium, Sean Carey, manager of NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC, Pasadena, California, Nikole Lewis, astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore and Sara Seager, professor of planetary science and physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
But beyond saying that the conference will present a “discovery beyond our solar system” and revealing the main topic will be exoplanet studies, the announcement is pretty cryptic. Exoplanets are planets that orbit other stars than the Sun. We’re quite limited in our capacity to search for life — we can’t directly look for extraterrestrial life, but what we can do is search for planets that might host life. If we find planets in the so-called Goldilocks area, there’s a decent chance of also finding life (if it has the right chemistry). Still, there is no biologist on the panel — which likely means this won’t be the “we discovered life” conference. That being said, we can’t know for sure until tomorrow, and there’s a lot of anticipation now to see what NASA has in store.
The conference will be for media only, but you can watch the whole thing on NASA’s live stream, which I’ve embedded below. You can still ask the panel questions using the hashtag #AskNasa while the conference is ongoing. If you’ve missed it, the agency will be holding a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) session right after the conference.