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Topic: NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer

NASA Researchers are developing new technologies to discover Earth-like Planets beyond our Solar System

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – We humans might not be the only ones to ponder our place in the universe. If intelligent aliens do roam the cosmos, they too might ask a question that has gripped humans for centuries: Are we alone?

These aliens might even have giant space telescopes dedicated to studying distant planets and searching for life. Should one of those telescopes capture an image of our blue marble of a planet, evidence of forests and plentiful creatures would jump out as simple chemicals: oxygen, ozone, water and methane.

The vacuum chamber at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, used for testing WFIRST and other coronagraphs. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The vacuum chamber at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, used for testing WFIRST and other coronagraphs. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer discovers free floating Planets in our Milky Way Galaxy

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In 2011, astronomers announced that our galaxy is likely teeming with free-floating planets. In fact, these lonely worlds, which sit quietly in the darkness of space without any companion planets or even a host sun, might outnumber stars in our Milky Way galaxy.

The surprising discovery begged the question: Where did these objects come from? Are they planets that were ejected from solar systems, or are they actually light-weight stars called brown dwarfs that formed alone in space like stars?

A new study using data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, WISE, and the Two Micron All Sky Survey, or 2MASS, provides new clues in this mystery of galactic proportions.

A young, free-floating world sits alone in space in this illustration. The object, called WISEA J114724.10?204021.3, is thought to be an exceptionally low-mass "brown dwarf," which is a star that lacked enough mass to burn nuclear fuel and glow like a star. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A young, free-floating world sits alone in space in this illustration. The object, called WISEA J114724.10?204021.3, is thought to be an exceptionally low-mass “brown dwarf,” which is a star that lacked enough mass to burn nuclear fuel and glow like a star. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s NEOWISE spacecraft continues to identify potentially hazardous near-Earth objects

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission has released its second year of survey data. The spacecraft has now characterized a total of 439 NEOs since the mission was re-started in December 2013. Of these, 72 were new discoveries.

Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of the giant planets in our solar system into orbits that allow them to enter Earth’s neighborhood. Eight of the objects discovered in the past year have been classified as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs), based on their size and how closely their orbits approach Earth.

This graphic shows asteroids and comets observed by NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/JHU)

This graphic shows asteroids and comets observed by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/JHU)

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NASA Data reveals Behemoth Super Spiral Galaxies

 

Written by Adam Hadhazy
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A strange new kind of galactic beast has been spotted in the cosmic wilderness. Dubbed “super spirals,” these unprecedented galaxies dwarf our own spiral galaxy, the Milky Way, and compete in size and brightness with the largest galaxies in the universe.

Super spirals have long hidden in plain sight by mimicking the appearance of typical spiral galaxies. A new study using archived NASA data reveals these seemingly nearby objects are in fact distant, behemoth versions of everyday spirals. Rare, super spiral galaxies present researchers with the major mystery of how such giants could have arisen.

In archived NASA data, researchers have discovered "super spiral" galaxies that dwarf our own spiral galaxy, the Milky Way, and compete in size and brightness with the largest galaxies in the universe. (SDSS)

In archived NASA data, researchers have discovered “super spiral” galaxies that dwarf our own spiral galaxy, the Milky Way, and compete in size and brightness with the largest galaxies in the universe. (SDSS)

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NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) observes one of the Brightest Galaxies destroying itself

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In a far-off galaxy, 12.4 billion light-years from Earth, a ravenous black hole is devouring galactic grub. Its feeding frenzy produces so much energy, it stirs up gas across its entire galaxy.

“It is like a pot of boiling water being heated up by a nuclear reactor in the center,” said Tanio Diaz-Santos of the Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile, lead author of a new study about this galaxy.

This artist's rendering shows a galaxy called W2246-0526, the most luminous galaxy known. New research suggests there is turbulent gas across its entirety, the first example of its kind. (NRAO/AUI/NSF; Dana Berry / SkyWorks; ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO))

This artist’s rendering shows a galaxy called W2246-0526, the most luminous galaxy known. New research suggests there is turbulent gas across its entirety, the first example of its kind. (NRAO/AUI/NSF; Dana Berry / SkyWorks; ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO))

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NASA Space Telescopes observe wakes left by fast moving Stars

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers are finding dozens of the fastest stars in our galaxy with the help of images from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE.

When some speedy, massive stars plow through space, they can cause material to stack up in front of them in the same way that water piles up ahead of a ship. Called bow shocks, these dramatic, arc-shaped features in space are leading researchers to uncover massive, so-called runaway stars.

Bow shocks thought to mark the paths of massive, speeding stars are highlighted in these images from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Wyoming)

Bow shocks thought to mark the paths of massive, speeding stars are highlighted in these images from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Wyoming)

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NASA discovers Star orbited by Comets

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A star called KIC 8462852 has been in the news recently for unexplained and bizarre behavior. NASA’s Kepler mission had monitored the star for four years, observing two unusual incidents, in 2011 and 2013, when the star’s light dimmed in dramatic, never-before-seen ways. Something had passed in front of the star and blocked its light, but what?

Scientists first reported the findings in September, suggesting a family of comets as the most likely explanation. Other cited causes included fragments of planets and asteroids.

This illustration shows a star behind a shattered comet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration shows a star behind a shattered comet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer spacecraft data shows Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide in Comets

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After its launch in 2009, NASA’s NEOWISE spacecraft observed 163 comets during the WISE/NEOWISE prime mission. This sample from the space telescope represents the largest infrared survey of comets to date.

Data from the survey are giving new insights into the dust, comet nucleus sizes, and production rates for difficult-to-observe gases like carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Results of the NEOWISE census of comets were recently published in the Astrophysical Journal.

An expanded view of comet C/2006 W3 (Christensen) is shown here. The WISE spacecraft observed this comet on April 20th, 2010 as it traveled through the constellation Sagittarius. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An expanded view of comet C/2006 W3 (Christensen) is shown here. The WISE spacecraft observed this comet on April 20th, 2010 as it traveled through the constellation Sagittarius. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft continues hunting asteroids long past its planned lifetime

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The NEOWISE mission hunts for near-Earth objects (NEOs) using the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft. Funded by NASA’s NEO Observations Program, the NEOWISE mission uses images taken by the spacecraft to look for asteroids and comets, providing a rich source of measurements of solar system objects at infrared wavelengths.

These measurements include wavelengths that are difficult or impossible to detect directly from the ground.

NEOWISE is one of 54 ongoing projects supported by the NEO Observations Program in fiscal year 2015. NASA-funded survey projects have found 98 percent of the known catalogue of more than 13,000 NEOs. NASA-funded surveys are currently finding NEOs at a rate of about 1,500 per year.

This artist's concept shows the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE spacecraft, in its orbit around Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE spacecraft, in its orbit around Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Space Telescopes discover Giant Galaxy Cluster

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers have discovered a giant gathering of galaxies in a very remote part of the universe, thanks to NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). The galaxy cluster, located 8.5 billion light-years away, is the most massive structure yet found at such great distances.

Galaxy clusters are gravitationally bound groups of thousands of galaxies, which themselves each contain hundreds of billions of stars. The clusters grow bigger and bigger over time as they acquire new members.

The galaxy cluster called MOO J1142+1527 can be seen here as it existed when light left it 8.5 billion years ago. The red galaxies at the center of the image make up the heart of the galaxy cluster. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Gemini/CARMA)

The galaxy cluster called MOO J1142+1527 can be seen here as it existed when light left it 8.5 billion years ago. The red galaxies at the center of the image make up the heart of the galaxy cluster. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Gemini/CARMA)

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