Exoplanetary Science Initiative
The JPL Exoplanetary Science Initiative (ESI) is dedicated to supporting a vision of the future of exoplanet science by deepening connections between Planetary & Earth Science and Astrophysics. ESI furthers science, technology, and program implementation in the discovery, characterization, and comparison of exoplanets, towards ultimately addressing the question of habitability in the universe.
JPL’s Path to Exoplanet and Comparative Planetary
Since the first exoplanet discovery two decades ago, some 4000 planets have been confirmed to orbit other stars, from Jupiter-like planets to rocky, Earth-sized worlds. On average, each star in our Galaxy hosts one or more planets, and the spaces between the stars have vast numbers of free-floating planets. Scientists around the world are analyzing diverse observations of many exoplanets to determine their properties, including their structure and compositions, and even their weather. We are at the cusp of a profoundly more sophisticated understanding of the story of planets everywhere, including potentially whether there is life beyond our own planet.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a leader in the development of many planet-hunting and characterization technologies, has begun a new science-development paradigm to build on this, and to more actively contribute to the broader conversation about the future of this field. The ESI marshals a variety of disciplines and campuses into close collaboration through funded competitively awarded projects, supports the recruitment of talented scientists and post-doctoral researchers to take new directions in exoplanetary investigation, engages Distinguished Visiting Scientists to advise JPL and contribute to mentoring our scientists, and supports meetings and workshops. Through these new and focused collaborations and partnerships, we pursue deeper insights of our understanding of the properties and context of planetary systems everywhere, including Earth-like planets.