A new NASA-funded planet-hunting instrument has been installed on the WIYN telescope, on Arizona's Kitt Peak. NEID (pronounced NOO-id) is a spectrometer that is one of the first instruments of its kind with the precision to detect small, terrestrial planets around nearby stars. NEID will also confirm the presence of planets discovered by NASA's TESS space telescope, and reveal details of their anatomy. Eventually, scientists want to be able to find Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars, in an effort to find a world with life on it.
Kitt Peak NEID Instrument - TRANSCRIPT
We want to find Earth-like planets around sun-like stars 'cause that's our best chance of finding a world with life on it.
Today's the day that truck carrying the NEID instrument has arrived. Over the next couple of days, we'll start integrating the whole system together but the first step is to actually get here and today the instrument got here.
The instrument is a radial velocity spectrometer. It measures to very high accuracy. The wobble of a star as a planet goes around it. We are trying to do this with a level of sensitivity more than anything that exists at the moment.
We're really gunning for is one of the most precise measurements of a frequency in Astronomy. I'm hoping we can get down to the point where we're really probing the limits of the star and nothing else. The idea with NEID is really develop something that is so stable that you're purely dominated by the astrophysics.
Not only will it detect planets and measure masses of known planets, but you can try for direct detection of planetary photons so that you can try to disentangle the very small reflected light signature from the planet itself. Instruments like NEID present the first capability for being able to do it.
One of the things NASA wanted was an instrument that could actually help the community follow up TESS objects.
I think it will be a very valuable resource for confirming TESS planets. So TESS provides the one half and NEID I think will do a wonderful job of providing the masses for a lot of these confirmed planets
Another goal for a NEID is to identify potential targets for JWST. Because JWST will open that doors to characterizing these planets by actually looking for atmospheres and images and so it's very important that you find the right ones to spend time with the telescope.