Panel Prods NASA to Seek Unknown Planets

By Eberhart, Jonathan | Science News, January 12, 1991 | Go to article overview

Panel Prods NASA to Seek Unknown Planets


Eberhart, Jonathan, Science News


Panel prods NASA to seek unknown planets

Beyond the solar system may lie other planets or planets aborning, and a scientific advisory panel recommends that NASA undertake "a major scientific effort" to find them.

In a report released last week, the National Research Council's Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration asserts that technology is "on the brink of major advances" that will allow scientists to determine over the next 10 to 30 years whether "extrasolar" planets with masses between those of Jupiter and Uranus are "common or very rare."

Committee chairman Larry W. Esposito of the University of Colorado in Boulder says work on the report began in 1984, prompted by ground-based observations that some scientists interpreted as evidence of a planet orbiting the star Van Biesbroeck 8 (SN:8/20/83, p.116) and by the discovery of a disk of small particles around a star called Beta Pictoris -- a finding that some thought might be associated with planet formation.

No one has confirmed the existence of Van Biesbroeck 8's planetary "companion." Astronomers have not detected any planet-like objects in the Beta Pictoris disk, nor have they confirmed the existence of planets orbiting any other star, Esposito says. …

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