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Topic: NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft discovers 104 Planets outside our Solar System

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – An international team of astronomers has discovered and confirmed a treasure trove of new worlds using NASA’s Kepler spacecraft on its K2 mission. Out of 197 initial planet candidates, scientists have confirmed 104 planets outside our solar system. Among the confirmed is a planetary system comprising four promising planets that could be rocky.

These four planets, all between 20 and 50 percent larger than Earth by diameter, are orbiting the M dwarf star K2-72, found 181 light-years away in the direction of the Aquarius constellation. The host star is less than half the size of the sun and less bright.

This artist's concept shows NASA's Kepler Space Telescope on its K2 mission. In July 2016, an international team of astronomers announced they had discovered more than 100 new planets using this telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope on its K2 mission. In July 2016, an international team of astronomers announced they had discovered more than 100 new planets using this telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope discovers newly formed Exoplanet

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers have discovered the youngest fully formed exoplanet ever detected. The discovery was made using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope and its extended K2 mission, as well as the W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Exoplanets are planets that orbit stars beyond our sun.

The newfound planet, K2-33b, is a bit larger than Neptune and whips tightly around its star every five days. It is only 5 to 10 million years old, making it one of a very few newborn planets found to date.

K2-33b, shown in this illustration, is one of the youngest exoplanets detected to date. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

K2-33b, shown in this illustration, is one of the youngest exoplanets detected to date. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Telescopes reveal star FU Orionis continues to devour gas around it

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In 1936, the young star FU Orionis began gobbling material from its surrounding disk of gas and dust with a sudden voraciousness. During a three-month binge, as matter turned into energy, the star became 100 times brighter, heating the disk around it to temperatures of up to 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit (7,000 Kelvin). FU Orionis is still devouring gas to this day, although not as quickly.

This brightening is the most extreme event of its kind that has been confirmed around a star the size of the sun, and may have implications for how stars and planets form. The intense baking of the star’s surrounding disk likely changed its chemistry, permanently altering material that could one day turn into planets.

The brightness of outbursting star FU Orionis has been slowly fading since its initial flare-up in 1936. Researchers found that it has dimmed by about 13 percent in short infrared wavelengths from 2004 (left) to 2016 (right). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The brightness of outbursting star FU Orionis has been slowly fading since its initial flare-up in 1936. Researchers found that it has dimmed by about 13 percent in short infrared wavelengths from 2004 (left) to 2016 (right). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s airborne survey of polar ice “Operation IceBridge” finishes Spring Campaign in the Arctic

 

Written by Maria-Jose Viñas
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Operation IceBridge, NASA’s airborne survey of polar ice, ended its eighth spring Arctic campaign on May 21st. During their five weeks of operations, mission scientists carried out six research flights over sea ice and ten over land ice.

“We collected data over key portions of the Greenland Ice Sheet, like the fast-changing Zachariae Isstrom Glacier, and we got the broad geographic coverage of Arctic sea ice we needed,” said Nathan Kurtz, IceBridge’s project scientist and a sea ice researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Fast-changing Zachariae Isstrom Glacier. (NASA/Maria-José Viñas)

Fast-changing Zachariae Isstrom Glacier. (NASA/Maria-José Viñas)

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NASA Researchers study how Microgravity affects Tiny Organisms in Space

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – On May 11th, a sealed capsule containing fungi and bacteria fell from the sky and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. Microbiologist Kasthuri Venkateswaran could hardly wait to see what was inside it.

At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Venkateswaran, who goes by Venkat, studies microbial life — the wild world of organisms too small for us to see with our eyes. Among his many research endeavors, Venkat has leading roles on two microbial experiments that recently returned from the International Space Station.

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft nears the International Space Station during the CRS-8 mission to deliver experiments including two microbial investigations. (NASA)

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft nears the International Space Station during the CRS-8 mission to deliver experiments including two microbial investigations. (NASA)

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NASA’s Kepler space telescope data reveals insights into Planet Migration

 

Written by Steve Koppes
University of Chicago

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationChicago, IL – The four planets of the Kepler-223 star system appeared to have little in common with the planets of our own solar system today. But a new study using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope suggests a possible commonality in the distant past.

The Kepler-223 planets orbit their star in the same configuration that Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune may have had in the early history of our solar system, before migrating to their current locations.

Sean Mills (left) and Daniel Fabrycky (right), researchers at the University of Chicago, describe the complex orbital structure of the Kepler-223 system in a new study. (Nancy Wong/University of Chicago)

Sean Mills (left) and Daniel Fabrycky (right), researchers at the University of Chicago, describe the complex orbital structure of the Kepler-223 system in a new study. (Nancy Wong/University of Chicago)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope discovers biggest unnamed dwarf planet in our Solar System

 

Written by Michele Johnson
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – Dwarf planets tend to be a mysterious bunch. With the exception of Ceres, which resides in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, all members of this class of minor planets in our solar system lurk in the depths beyond Neptune.

They are far from Earth – small and cold – which makes them difficult to observe, even with large telescopes. So it’s little wonder astronomers only discovered most of them in the past decade or so.

Pluto is a prime example of this elusiveness. Before NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft visited it in 2015, the largest of the dwarf planets had appeared as little more than a fuzzy blob, even to the keen-eyed Hubble Space Telescope.

New K2 results peg 2007 OR10 as the largest unnamed body in our solar system and the third largest of the current roster of about half a dozen dwarf planets. The dwarf planet Haumea has an oblong shape that is wider on its long axis than 2007 OR10, but its overall volume is smaller. (Konkoly Observatory/András Pál, Hungarian Astronomical Association/Iván Éder, NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

New K2 results peg 2007 OR10 as the largest unnamed body in our solar system and the third largest of the current roster of about half a dozen dwarf planets. The dwarf planet Haumea has an oblong shape that is wider on its long axis than 2007 OR10, but its overall volume is smaller. (Konkoly Observatory/András Pál, Hungarian Astronomical Association/Iván Éder, NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA announces Kepler Space Telescope discovers 1,284 new planets

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Kepler mission has verified 1,284 new planets — the single largest finding of planets to date.

“This announcement more than doubles the number of confirmed planets from Kepler,” said Ellen Stofan, chief scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This gives us hope that somewhere out there, around a star much like ours, we can eventually discover another Earth.”

Analysis was performed on the Kepler space telescope’s July 2015 planet candidate catalog, which identified 4,302 potential planets. For 1,284 of the candidates, the probability of being a planet is greater than 99 percent – the minimum required to earn the status of “planet.”

The image is a concept piece depicting select Kepler planetary discoveries made to date. (NASA Ames/W. Stenzel)

The image is a concept piece depicting select Kepler planetary discoveries made to date. (NASA Ames/W. Stenzel)

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NASA’s SOFIA flying observatory sees Atomic Oxygen in Atmosphere of Mars

 

Written by Kassandra Bell, SOFIA Science Center
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – An instrument onboard the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) detected atomic oxygen in the atmosphere of Mars for the first time since the last observation 40 years ago. These atoms were found in the upper layers of the Martian atmosphere known as the mesosphere.

Atomic oxygen affects how other gases escape Mars and therefore has a significant impact on the planet’s atmosphere. Scientists detected only about half the amount of oxygen expected, which may be due to variations in the Martian atmosphere.

SOFIA/GREAT spectrum of oxygen [O I] superimposed on an image of Mars from the MAVEN mission. The amount of atomic oxygen computed from this SOFIA data is about half the amount expected. (SOFIA/GREAT spectrum: NASA/DLR/USRA/DSI/MPIfR/GREAT Consortium/ MPIfS/Rezac et al. 2015. Mars image: NASA/MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission)

SOFIA/GREAT spectrum of oxygen [O I] superimposed on an image of Mars from the MAVEN mission. The amount of atomic oxygen computed from this SOFIA data is about half the amount expected. (SOFIA/GREAT spectrum: NASA/DLR/USRA/DSI/MPIfR/GREAT Consortium/ MPIfS/Rezac et al. 2015. Mars image: NASA/MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission)

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NASA to release Kepler Space Telescope’s latest discoveries May 10th

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA will host a news teleconference at 10:00am PDT (12:00pm CDT) Tuesday, May 10th to announce the latest discoveries made by its planet-hunting mission, the Kepler Space Telescope.

When Kepler was launched in March 2009, scientists did not know how common planets were outside our solar system. Thanks to Kepler’s treasure trove of discoveries, astronomers now believe there may be at least one planet orbiting every star in the sky.

Artist's concept of NASA's Kepler space telescope. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Kepler space telescope. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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