NASA's new telescope could find HUNDREDS more planets in search for alien life

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Scientists claim the US space agency’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) will give humans the largest, deepest, clearest picture of the Universe to date — and any alien species that may be lurking out of reach.

Lead study author Dr Matthew Penny, postdoctoral researcher in the Ohio State Department of Astronomy, said the mission — which is projected to coast a staggering £2.45billion — will give Nasa the chance to “see everything”.

Dr Penny said: “We want to know what kind of planetary systems there are.

“To do that, you need to not just look where the obvious, easy things are. You need to look at everything.

nasa wfirst telescope

REVOLUTIONARY: Never-seen-before planets will be discovered, say scientists (Pic: NASA)

“WFIRST will allow us to find types of planets that we haven’t seen before now”

Dr Matthew Penny

“Kepler began the search by looking for planets that orbit their stars closer than the Earth is to our Sun.

“WFIRST will complete it by finding planets with larger orbits.

“Although it’s a small fraction of the sky, it’s huge compared to what other space telescopes can do.

“It’s WFIRST’s unique combination – both a wide field of view and a high resolution – that make it so powerful for microlensing planet searches. Previous space telescopes, including Hubble and James Webb, have had to choose one or the other.

nasa wfirst telescope

ALIEN LIFE: The telescope could potentially find inhabited worlds (Pic: NASA)

Universe

UNKNOWN: There are hundreds of new planets Nasa wants to find (Pic: GETTY)

“WFIRST will allow us to find types of planets that we haven’t seen before now.

“From WFIRST’s microlensing survey, we will learn how frequently different types of planets are formed, and how unique our solar system is.”

The new telescope will also pave the way for a more accurate, more focused search for extraterrestrial life, he claimed.

Dr Penny added: “Infrared light allows WFIRST to see through dust that lies in the plane of the Milky Way in between us and the galactic center, something optical telescopes on the ground cannot do.

“This gives WFIRST access to parts of the sky that are more densely packed with stars.”

The mission is still in the planning stages; NASA announced plans to move forward with WFIRST in February of 2016, and began its initial planning in May of 2018.

The study was published in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series.

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