In a joint effort, the Draper Laboratory and MIT have developed a nanosatellite, ExoPlanetSat, that's mission will be to locate potentially life supporting Earthlike planets beyond our solar system. It is scheduled to launch next year and complement NASA's much larger Kepler satellite and the French operated CoRot satellite.
ExoPlanetSat will use the same technology that the larger satellites use to detect alien worlds. Using a technique known as transit observation, the satellite will use its high performance optics to detect dimming of a star caused by an orbiting planet passing in front of it. By precisely measuring the drop in brightness researchers can determine the size of the orbiting planet, and by observing the amount of time an orbit takes, the distance of the planet from the star can be calculated. In order for these