Comet, asteroid & planet searches get new MIT-led study

(Photo by Araya Diaz/Getty Images)

Come the new year, astronomers will likely be spending their days searching for signs of life on other planets outside our solar system, according to a new survey.

In 2018, the Human Imagination Project will collect data on the locations of comets, asteroids, exoplanets, and other heavenly bodies in the universe. The data will help researchers determine if they can identify planets, whose resident microbes have opted to stick around for more than 10 million years, to live to have offspring.

“Much of the data we’re going to collect is going to be so visually stunning and aesthetically pleasing to see, that I think that’s the next frontier for astronomy: providing the public with an incredible experience,” said statistician and EMDT founder Laura Pace.

Many of the data sets from which the survey will be combed have never been observed. In fact, more than half of the close to 1,000 galaxies they contain have never been photographed.

“There is a lot of data that hasn’t been observed, but can be observed within a short period of time. And that’s what we’re hoping to accomplish,” said EMDT chair Christopher Chadwick.

The survey hopes to select the most scientifically productive set of data to use to make the next ten years of discoveries, Chadwick added.

“Without discovery of unknown planets, we can’t develop our knowledge of the universe,” said Chadwick.

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