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NESSI: New Mexico Exoplanet Spectroscopic Survey Instrument

NM

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology/Space Technology Mission Directorate

The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology’s 2.4-meter (7.9-foot) Magdalena Ridge Observatory in Socorro County, N.M., home to NESSI. Image credit: New Mexico Tech

So many new worlds to explore, yet so little we know about them. That’s the primary rationale for the building of the New Mexico Exoplanet Spectroscopic Survey Instrument (NESSI). Designed partly using NASA EPSCoR funds, NESSI will help astronomers decipher the chemical composition of exoplanets at a time when more and more of these bodies are discovered orbiting stars beyond our sun. Deployed at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology’s Magdalena Ridge Observatory in Socorro County, NESSI got its first peek at the sky on April 3, 2014. “Planet hunters have found thousands of exoplanets, but what do we know about them?” said Michele Creech-Eakman, the project’s principal science investigator. “NESSI will help us find out more about their atmospheres and compositions.” A collaborative effort between NMT, New Mexico State University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NESSI will focus on about 100 exoplanets, ranging from massive versions of Earth, called super-Earths, to scorching gas giants known as “hot Jupiters.” All of the instrument’s targets orbit closely to their stars. Future space telescopes will use similar technology to probe planets more akin to Earth, searching for signs of habitable environments and even life itself. Ten undergraduate students – and numerous local and regional industry suppliers - helped make NESSI happen. Despite concerns over a current lack of funding to regularly operate NESSI, the project’s backers believe its sky-gazing future should eventually brighten. “We’re watching the next generation of scientists and engineers get excited about exoplanets,” said Creech-Eakman. “Who knows what they will be able to see when they’re older -- perhaps the atmospheres of potentially habitable worlds.” http://krqe.com/2014/04/04/nm-tech-exoplanet-search-is-earthalone

www.nasa.gov/epscor/stimuli

NESSI on the MRO 2.4m ‘scope during commissioning.

Michelle Creech-Eakman, Science PI, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

NASA Technical Monitor: Dr. Mario Perez

NASA EPSCoR Stimuli 2014-15

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EPSCoR Stimuli 2014-15  

NASA Office of Education’s Aerospace Research & Career Development (ARCD) is pleased to release NASA EPSCoR Stimuli, a collection of univers...

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