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Toward Other Planetary Systems

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Tops: Toward Other Planetary Systems by System Exploration Division Solar System Exploration Division
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In recent decades, several lines of scientific investigation have converged to bring into sharp focus our understanding of the solar system. Intensive observations by spacecraft and other means, combined with extraordinary laboratory analytical methods and theoretical investigations, are beginning to paint an intelligible picture of our solar system's history, the mechanisms of its development, and the relationship between the formation of our Sun and its associated planets. Astronomical observations are providing important new information about the processes that give birth to stars and about the conditions in star-forming regions and around very young stars that might be conducive to establishing planetary systems. This progress leads naturally to a new line of inquiry: the discovery and characterization of planetary systems around other stars. This report describes a general plan and the pertinent technological requirements for TOPS (Toward Other Planetary Systems), a staged program to ascertain the prevalence and character of other planetary systems and to construct a definitive picture of the formation of stars and their planets. The first stages focus on discovering and studying a significant number of fully formed planetary systems, as well as expanding current studies of protoplanetary systems. As the TOPS Program evolves, emphasis will shift toward intensive study of the discovered systems and of individual planets. Early stages of the TOPS Program can be undertaken with ground-based observations and space missions comparable in scale to those now being performed. In the long term, however, TOPS will become an ambitious program that challenges our capabilities and provides impetus for major space initiatives and new technologies, which will be accomplishments of historical significance.
Release date NZ
June 1st, 2005
Country of Publication
United States
University Press of the Pacific
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