Scientists will not stop until they find other planets just like Earth. That is why NASA gave the researchers from Penn State University the opportunity to build a $10 million next-generation planet finder, but how does it work?

The instrument, dubbed NN-Explore Exoplanet Investigations with Doppler Spectroscopy (NEID), is a cutting-edge exoplanet hunter that will be designed and built by scientist over the next three years. By 2019, the instrument will be connected to the 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) WIYN telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory based in Arizona.


What Exactly Is NEID?
The name NEID came from the Tohono O'odham word that means "to discover or visualize." The instrument aims to detect planets by the gravitational pull they exert on their stars, which is called the "wobble effect."

In the past years, scientists have been using this phenomenon in detecting exoplanets, which are planets outside of the solar system. The development of a state-of-the-art NEID will provide more detailed and improved findings compared to methods used today.


How Does It Work?
Previous NASA missions established to hunt for planets outside the solar system used the method called "transit technique." Scientists long believed that a dip in the star's brightness shows the movement of a planet around it.

NEID is based on a different method and this is where the "wobble effect" comes in. It helps a telescope on Earth detect even the tiniest movement or wobbling of a star.

If the building plan of the device will be successful, the instrument can detect movements of stars as tiny as 0.1 meters per second. This is done through the use of a spectrometer, which will measure various light components from the stellar photosphere.

Just like planets in the solar system, exoplanets goes around a host star. In cases when the planet goes around it, the star actually moves a bit. These tiny movements are what NEID aims to detect.


Still A Plan
Even if the grant was given to Penn University scientists, there is still much work to do. It's still a plan and there's no tangible device yet.

Despite this, the scientists hope that everything will go according to plan. The future findings of the team will help the American space agency's research on exoplanets.

They hope that soon, the project could pave way for the discovery of planets that closely resembles Earth.

"With the next generation of satellites, we might observe something about the atmospheres of these planets that would convince us that there is something beyond just volcanoes and rocks there. There might be something biological going on there, too," said Cullen Blake, an assistant professor at Penn University.

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