CGI image of Beta Pictoris b
Excerpt from nbcnews.com
NASA has established a coalition of research groups and disciplines aimed at finding and categorizing potentially life-bearing planets throughout our galaxy. The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) will be a program to which not just astronomers, but atmospheric scientists, biologists, geologists and star experts will contribute.
"This interdisciplinary endeavor connects top research teams and provides a synthesized approach in the search for planets with the greatest potential for signs of life," said Jim Green, NASA's Director of Planetary Science, in a news release announcing the collaborative project. "The hunt for exoplanets is not only a priority for astronomers, it's of keen interest to planetary and climate scientists as well."
There's more to finding exoplanets than just pointing the telescope in the right direction, after all. And knowing they're there is just the beginning of studying and understanding them. The variety of planets, stars and other cosmic conditions interacts in a complex way with the corresponding variety of life and life-giving environments. Led by researchers from several NASA institutions, NExSS will coordinate the efforts of a dozen or more teams from Berkeley, Stanford, Yale, SETI and more.