NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is designed to conduct unprecedented large surveys of the infrared universe to explore everything from our solar system to the edge of the observable universe, including planets throughout our galaxy as well as the nature of dark energy. It will also search for planets outside our solar system toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy, where most stars are. Read more for two videos and additional information.
When WFIRST’s findings are combined with results from NASA’s Kepler and Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) missions, astronomers will be able to complete the first planet census that is sensitive to a wide range of planet masses and orbits, bringing us a step closer to discovering habitable Earth-like worlds beyond our own.
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Microlensing signals from small planets are rare and brief, but they’re stronger than the signals from other methods. Since it’s a one-in-a-million event, the key to WFIRST finding low-mass planets is to search hundreds of millions of stars,” said David Bennett, who leads the gravitational microlensing group at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.