Terrestrial Planet Finder

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Terrestrial Planet Finder - Infrared interferometer concept
A simulated view of the coronagraph for Terrestrial Planet Finder. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) was a proposed project by NASA to construct a system of telescopes for detecting extrasolar terrestrial planets. TPF was postponed several times and finally cancelled in 2011.[1][2] There were actually two telescope systems under consideration, the TPF-I, which had several small telescopes, and TPF-C, which used one large telescope.


In May 2002, NASA chose two TPF mission architecture concepts for further study and technology development. Each would use a different means to achieve the same goal—to block the light from a parent star in order to see its much smaller, dimmer planets. That technology challenge has been likened to finding a firefly near the beam of a distant searchlight. Additional goals of the mission would include characterizing the surfaces and atmospheres of newfound planets, and looking for the chemical signatures of life. In May 2004, both architectures were approved. Congressional spending limits under House Resolution 20 passed on 31 January 2007, by the United States House of Representatives and 14 February by the U.S. Senate have postponed the program indefinitely.

The two planned architectures were:

NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) were to issue calls for proposals seeking input on the development and demonstration of technologies to implement the two architectures, and on scientific research relevant to planet finding. Launch of TPF-C had been anticipated to occur around 2014, and TPF-I possibly by 2020.

According to NASA's 2007 budget documentation, released on 6 February 2006,[3] the project was deferred indefinitely.[4] In June 2006, a House of Representatives subcommittee voted to provide funding for the TPF along with the long-sought mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter that might harbor extraterrestrial life.[5] However, as of June 2008, actual funding has not materialized, and TPF remains without a launch date.[6] More recently, in June 2011, the TPF (and SIM) programs have been reported as "cancelled".[1]

Top 10 target stars[edit]

Rank [7]Target starConstellationDistance
Spectral type
1Alpha Centauri ACentaurus4.3G2V
2Alpha Centauri BCentaurus4.3K1V
3Tau CetiCetus12G8V
4Eta CassiopeiaeCassiopeia19G3V
5Beta HydriHydrus24G2IV
6Delta PavonisPavo20G8V
7Pi3 OrionisOrion26F6V
8Gamma LeporisLepus29F7V
9Epsilon EridaniEridanus10K2V
1040 EridaniEridanus16K1V

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mullen, Leslie (2 June 2011). "Rage Against the Dying of the Light". Astrobiology Magazine. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  2. ^ Overbye, Dennis (12 May 2013). "Finder of New Worlds". New York Times. Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
  3. ^ "NASA budget statement". Planetary Society. 2006-02-06. Retrieved 2006-07-17. 
  4. ^ NASA President's FY 2007 Budget Request
  5. ^ "House subcommittee helps save our science". Planetary Society. 2006-06-14. Retrieved 2006-07-17. 
  6. ^ Charles Q. Choi (2007-04-18). "New Technique Will Photograph Earth-Like Planets". Space.com. Retrieved 2007-05-02. 
  7. ^ TPF C's Top Target Stars Space Telescope Science Institute

External links[edit]