An anonymous reader wrote with a link to the official Planet Quest site. Planet Quest has the goal of exploring the galaxy via sophisticated instrumentation for another habitable planet. NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab is working to plan out missions for the project, and researchers are now theorizing that the instruments may be able to explore the system of 40 Eridani. Hardcore Trek fans may know 40 Eridani as the star associated with the planet Vulcan. "The SIM PlanetQuest instrument will be so accurate, it could measure the thickness of a nickel at a distance from Earth to the moon. Using a set of mathematical models based on Newton's Laws, Tanner was able to conclude that SIM would be able to definitively determine whether there is an Earth-mass planet orbiting in the habitable zone around 40 Eridani A, and could also determine its orbit. This is quite an exciting prospect, since NASA's Terrestrial Planet Finder mission, planned for launch after SIM, would not only be able to take a rudimentary 'picture' of the planet, but also could search for signatures of life such as methane and ozone."
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