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2005 Annual Science Report

Virtual Planetary Laboratory (JPL/CalTech) Reporting  |  JUL 2004 – JUN 2005

Executive Summary


Laying the Scientific Foundation for the Search for Life Beyond the Solar System

Because of the vast distances to even the nearest stars, the search for life outside our solar system will be undertaken using astronomical “remote-sensing” techniques. The first-generation missions to use these techniques, the NASA Terrestrial Planet Finder and ESA Darwin missions, and the next generation NASA LifeFinder mission will not be able to spatially resolve features on the surface of the planet. While basic information can be gleaned about an extrasolar planet based on the characteristics of the host star and the planet’s position in its planetary system, spectroscopy is still our most powerful technique for extrasolar planet characterization. The NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory (VPL) uses computer models of terrestrial planets to understand the nature and potential range of spectroscopic signs of planetary habitability and life ... Continue reading.

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