NASA and the National Science Foundation have funded a new instrument called NEID. NEID is designed to help scientists measure the mass of our extrasolar planets. The tool can observe the gravitational pull of planets on their parent stars.
NASA says the information could help reveal the composition of the planets, which is one of the key factors in determining whether they are habitable. NEID recently made its first observations on the Wiyn 3.5-meter telescope at the Kite Peak National Observatory, where it was studying a star numbered 51 Pegasi.
Pegasi was the first star to be found with exoplanets and a sun-like nature, and was discovered in 1995. The observatory is located in southern Arizona. NEID uses a radial velocity method to study planets, and scientists study how stars oscillate slightly because of their gravitational pull.
The greater the mass of the planet orbiting the star, the more the star will be affected by the swing. By measuring the diameter and mass of a planet, scientists can determine its density to reveal whether a planet is a rocky or gaseous planet. Scientists have been able to measure swings as low as 3 feet per second, but NEID can improve accuracy by about three times.
NEID will identify the planets discovered by the TESS space telescope and measure their mass. TESS uses a different method of using NEID to detect planets. It will also investigate candidate planets found by other telescopes.