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After 6 years, NASA’s Kepler space telescope has found over 1,000 planets and counting

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Kepler spacecraft began hunting for planets outside our solar system on May 12th, 2009. From the trove of data collected, we have learned that planets are common, that most sun-like stars have at least one planet and that nature makes planets with unimaginable diversity.

Kepler launched on March 6th, 2009. Its mission was to survey a portion of our galaxy to determine what fraction of stars might harbor potentially habitable, Earth-sized exoplanets, or planets that orbit other stars.

The artistic concept shows NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. Using publicly available data, astronomers may have confirmed K2's first discovery of star with more than one planet. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

The artistic concept shows NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. Using publicly available data, astronomers may have confirmed K2’s first discovery of star with more than one planet. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

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NASA reports Crowdsourced Smartphone Data could give advance notice for People in Earthquake Zones

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Smartphones and other personal electronic devices could, in regions where they are in widespread use, function as early warning systems for large earthquakes, according to newly reported research.

This technology could serve regions of the world that cannot afford higher quality, but more expensive, conventional earthquake early warning systems, or could contribute to those systems.

The study, led by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), found that the sensors in smartphones and similar devices could be used to build earthquake warning systems.

Cell phones can detect ground motion and warn others before strong shaking arrives. ("Everyone Check Your Phones - NYC" by Jim Pennucci, used under CC BY.)

Cell phones can detect ground motion and warn others before strong shaking arrives. (“Everyone Check Your Phones – NYC” by Jim Pennucci, used under CC BY.)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover discovers Two Tone Mineral Veins on side of Martian Mountain

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Two-tone mineral veins at a site NASA’s Curiosity rover has reached by climbing a layered Martian mountain offer clues about multiple episodes of fluid movement. These episodes occurred later than the wet environmental conditions that formed lake-bed deposits the rover examined at the mountain’s base.

Curiosity has analyzed rock samples drilled from three targets lower on the mountain in the past seven months. It found a different mineral composition at each, including a silica mineral named cristobalite in the most recent sample.

This March 18, 2015, view from the Mast Camera on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows a network of two-tone mineral veins at an area called "Garden City" on lower Mount Sharp. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This March 18, 2015, view from the Mast Camera on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows a network of two-tone mineral veins at an area called “Garden City” on lower Mount Sharp. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA Scientists recreate Building Blocks of Life by simulating Outer Space Environment

 

Written by Ruth Marlaire
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – NASA scientists studying the origin of life have reproduced uracil, cytosine, and thymine, three key components of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. They discovered that an ice sample containing pyrimidine exposed to ultraviolet radiation under space-like conditions produces these essential ingredients of life.

Pyrimidine is a ring-shaped molecule made up of carbon and nitrogen and is the central structure for uracil, cytosine, and thymine, which are all three part of a genetic code found in ribonucleic (RNA) and deoxyribonucleic acids (DNA). RNA and DNA are central to protein synthesis, but also have many other roles.

Left to right: Ames scientists Michel Nuevo, Christopher Materese and Scott Sandford reproduce uracil, cytosine, and thymine, three key components of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. (NASA/ Dominic Hart)

Left to right: Ames scientists Michel Nuevo, Christopher Materese and Scott Sandford reproduce uracil, cytosine, and thymine, three key components of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. (NASA/ Dominic Hart)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope data helps astronomers find old Planetary System with Five Small Planets

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers using data from NASA’s Kepler mission have discovered a planetary system of five small planets dating back to when the Milky Way galaxy was a youthful two billion years old.

The tightly packed system, named Kepler-444, is home to five planets that range in size, with the smallest comparable to the size of Mercury and the largest to Venus. All five planets orbit their sun-like star in less than 10 days, which makes their orbits much closer than Mercury’s sweltering 88-day orbit around the sun.

The tightly packed system, named Kepler-444, is home to five small planets in very compact orbits. The planets were detected from the dimming that occurs when they transit the disk of their parent star, as shown in this artist's conception. (Tiago Campante/Peter Devine)

The tightly packed system, named Kepler-444, is home to five small planets in very compact orbits. The planets were detected from the dimming that occurs when they transit the disk of their parent star, as shown in this artist’s conception. (Tiago Campante/Peter Devine)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope discovers it’s 1,000th Exoplanet

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – How many stars like our sun host planets like our Earth? NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope continuously monitored more than 150,000 stars beyond our solar system, and to date has offered scientists an assortment of more than 4,000 candidate planets for further study — the 1,000th of which was recently verified.

Using Kepler data, scientists reached this millenary milestone after validating that eight more candidates spotted by the planet-hunting telescope are, in fact, planets. The Kepler team also has added another 554 candidates to the roll of potential planets, six of which are near-Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of stars similar to our sun.

Of the more than 1,000 verified planets found by NASA's Kepler, eight are less than twice Earth-size and in their stars' habitable zone. All eight orbit stars cooler and smaller than our sun. The search continues for Earth-size habitable zone worlds around sun-like stars. (NASA Ames/W Stenzel)

Of the more than 1,000 verified planets found by NASA’s Kepler, eight are less than twice Earth-size and in their stars’ habitable zone. All eight orbit stars cooler and smaller than our sun. The search continues for Earth-size habitable zone worlds around sun-like stars. (NASA Ames/W Stenzel)

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NASA’s Kepler spacecraft discovers it’s first Exoplanet during new mission

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA -NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft makes a comeback with the discovery of the first exoplanet found using its new mission — K2.

The discovery was made when astronomers and engineers devised an ingenious way to repurpose Kepler for the K2 mission and continue its search of the cosmos for other worlds.

“Last summer, the possibility of a scientifically productive mission for Kepler after its reaction wheel failure in its extended mission was not part of the conversation,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s astrophysics division director at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “Today, thanks to an innovative idea and lots of hard work by the NASA and Ball Aerospace team, Kepler may well deliver the first candidates for follow-up study by the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize the atmospheres of distant worlds and search for signatures of life.”

The artistic concept shows NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

The artistic concept shows NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

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NASA’s Fruit Fly Lab makes debut on International Space Station

 

Written by Gianine M. Figliozzi
NASA’s Ames Research Center, Space Biosciences Division

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – The most advanced system to date for studying fruit flies in space, NASA’s Fruit Fly Lab, is making its debut aboard the International Space Station.

The Fruit Fly Lab-01 mission, planned to launch to the station in December aboard SpaceX’s fifth commercial resupply services (CRS) mission, is the first of a series of fruit fly investigations NASA plans to conduct.

The fruit fly—a widely studied biological research model—plays a lead role in this study and will help us better understand how spaceflight impairs the body’s ability to fight infections.

The fruit fly—Drosophila melanogaster—is helping researchers understand how spaceflight affects the immune system’s response to infection. (NASA / Dominic Hart)

The fruit fly—Drosophila melanogaster—is helping researchers understand how spaceflight affects the immune system’s response to infection. (NASA / Dominic Hart)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover confirms first Mineral Mapped from Space

 

Written by Preston Dyches and Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Reddish rock powder from the first hole drilled into a Martian mountain by NASA’s Curiosity rover has yielded the mission’s first confirmation of a mineral mapped from orbit.

“This connects us with the mineral identifications from orbit, which can now help guide our investigations as we climb the slope and test hypotheses derived from the orbital mapping,” said Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

This image shows the first holes drilled by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity at Mount Sharp. The loose material near the drill holes is drill tailings and an accumulation of dust that slid down the rock during drilling. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This image shows the first holes drilled by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity at Mount Sharp. The loose material near the drill holes is drill tailings and an accumulation of dust that slid down the rock during drilling. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’S Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter takes photos of LADEE’s impact crater on the Moon

 

Written by Nancy Neal-Jones
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA’S Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft has spied a new crater on the lunar surface; one made from the impact of NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission.

“The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) team recently developed a new computer tool to search Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) before and after image pairs for new craters, the LADEE impact event provided a fun test, said Mark Robinson, LROC principal investigator from Arizona State University in Tempe. “As it turns there were several small surface changes found in the predicted area of the impact, the biggest and most distinctive was within 968 feet (295 meters) of the spot estimated by the LADEE operations team. What fun!”

LRO has imaged the LADEE impact site on the eastern rim of Sundman V crater. The image was created by ratioing two images, one taken before the impact and another afterwards. The bright area highlights what has changed between the time of the two images, specifically the impact point and the ejecta. (NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University)

LRO has imaged the LADEE impact site on the eastern rim of Sundman V crater. The image was created by ratioing two images, one taken before the impact and another afterwards. The bright area highlights what has changed between the time of the two images, specifically the impact point and the ejecta.
(NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University)

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