What is TPF?
The Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) will study all aspects of planets: from their formation and development in disks of dust and gas around newly forming stars to the presence and features of those planets orbiting the nearest stars; from the numbers at various sizes, and places to their suitability as an abode for life. By combining the high sensitivity of space telescopes with the sharply detailed pictures from an interferometer, TPF will be able to reduce the glare of parent stars by a factor of more than one hundred-thousand to see planetary systems as far away as 50 light years. In addition to measuring the size, temperature, and placing of planets as small as the Earth in the habitable zones of distant solar systems, TPF's spectroscopy will allow atmospheric chemists and biologists to use the relative amounts of gasses like carbon dioxide, water vapor, ozone and methane to find whether a planet someday could or even now does support life.

In addition to studying planets around nearby, mature stars like the sun, TPF will advance our understanding of how planets and their parent stars form. The disks of forming stars are a few earth-to-sun units (AU) across. TPF will study structures on the scale of a few tenths of an AU to investigate how gaseous (Jupiter-like) and rocky (Earth-like) planets form out of disk material. By studying the heat glow from dust, ice and gasses such as hydrogen and carbon monoxide. TPF will investigate whether, as theory predicts, rocky planets form in warmer regions and gaseous planets in colder regions while a solar system is being born.

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Reproduced from http://tpf.jpl.nasa.gov/