The Hale Telescope is located on Palomar Mountain in San Diego County, California. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The darkness surrounding the Hale Telescope breaks with a sliver of blue sky as the dome begins to open, screeching with metallic, sci-fi-like sounds atop San Diego County’s Palomar Mountain. The historic observatory smells of the oil pumped in to support the bearings that make this giant telescope float ever so slightly as it moves to track the stars.

Since February 2018, scientists have been testing an instrument at the Hale Telescope called the New Mexico Exoplanet Spectroscopic Survey Instrument, or NESSI. A collaboration between NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, NESSI was built to examine the atmospheres of planets that orbit stars beyond our Sun, or exoplanets, providing new…



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