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Topic: Orbit

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope verifies nearest Planet outside our Solar System

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have confirmed the discovery of the nearest rocky planet outside our solar system, larger than Earth and a potential gold mine of science data.

Dubbed HD 219134b, this exoplanet, which orbits too close to its star to sustain life, is a mere 21 light-years away. While the planet itself can’t be seen directly, even by telescopes, the star it orbits is visible to the naked eye in dark skies in the Cassiopeia constellation, near the North Star.

This artist's rendition shows one possible appearance for the planet HD 219134b, the nearest confirmed rocky exoplanet found to date outside our solar system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendition shows one possible appearance for the planet HD 219134b, the nearest confirmed rocky exoplanet found to date outside our solar system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope searches for another Earth

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The discovery of a super-Earth-sized planet orbiting a sun-like star brings us closer than ever to finding a twin of our own watery world. But NASA’s Kepler space telescope has captured evidence of other potentially habitable planets amid the sea of stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

To take a brief tour of the more prominent contenders, it helps to zero in on the “habitable zone” around their stars. This is the band of congenial temperatures for planetary orbits — not too close and not too far.

A newly discovered exoplanet, Kepler-452b, comes the closest of any found so far to matching our Earth-sun system. A newly discovered exoplanet, Kepler-452b: from left, Kepler-22b, Kepler-69c, the just announced Kepler-452b, Kepler-62f and Kepler-186f. Last in line is Earth itself. (NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

A newly discovered exoplanet, Kepler-452b, comes the closest of any found so far to matching our Earth-sun system. A newly discovered exoplanet, Kepler-452b: from left, Kepler-22b, Kepler-69c, the just announced Kepler-452b, Kepler-62f and Kepler-186f. Last in line is Earth itself. (NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope finds Earth size planet around a star like our sun in the Habitable Zone

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Kepler mission has confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet in the “habitable zone” around a sun-like star. This discovery and the introduction of 11 other new small habitable-zone candidate planets mark another milestone in the journey to finding another “Earth.”

The newly discovered Kepler-452b is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone — the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet — of a G2-type star, like our sun. The confirmation of Kepler-452b brings the total number of confirmed planets to 1,030.

This artist's concept depicts one possible appearance of the planet Kepler-452b, the first near-Earth-size world to be found in the habitable zone of star that is similar to our sun. ( NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept depicts one possible appearance of the planet Kepler-452b, the first near-Earth-size world to be found in the habitable zone of star that is similar to our sun. ( NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory watches as Pulsar Punches Hole in Disk of Gas

 

Written by Janet Anderson
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – A fast-moving pulsar appears to have punched a hole in a disk of gas around its companion star and launched a fragment of the disk outward at a speed of about 4 million miles per hour. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is tracking this cosmic clump, which appears to be picking up speed as it moves out.

The double star system PSR B1259-63/LS 2883 – or B1259 for short – contains a star about 30 times as massive as the Sun and a pulsar, an ultra-dense neutron star left behind when an even more massive star underwent a supernova explosion.

This trio of images contains evidence from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory that a clump of stellar material has been jettisoned away from a double star system at incredibly high speeds. This system, known as PSR B1259-63/LS 2883 – or B1259 for short – is comprised of two objects in orbit around one another. The first is a star about 30 times as massive as the Sun that has a disk of material swirling around it. The other is a pulsar, an ultra-dense neutron star left behind when an even more massive star underwent a supernova explosion. (NASA/CXC/PSU/G.Pavlov et al)

This trio of images contains evidence from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory that a clump of stellar material has been jettisoned away from a double star system at incredibly high speeds. This system, known as PSR B1259-63/LS 2883 – or B1259 for short – is comprised of two objects in orbit around one another. The first is a star about 30 times as massive as the Sun that has a disk of material swirling around it. The other is a pulsar, an ultra-dense neutron star left behind when an even more massive star underwent a supernova explosion. (NASA/CXC/PSU/G.Pavlov et al)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft prepares for Third Mapping orbit of Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is using its ion propulsion system to descend to its third mapping orbit at Ceres, and all systems are operating well. The spiral maneuvering over the next five weeks will take the spacecraft to an altitude of about 900 miles (less than 1,500 kilometers) above the dwarf planet.

The spacecraft experienced a discrepancy in its expected orientation on June 30, triggering a safe mode. Engineers traced this anomaly to the mechanical gimbal system that swivels ion engine #3 to help control the spacecraft’s orientation during ion-thrusting. Dawn has three ion engines and uses only one at a time.

This artist concept shows NASA's Dawn spacecraft above dwarf planet Ceres, as seen in images from the mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This artist concept shows NASA’s Dawn spacecraft above dwarf planet Ceres, as seen in images from the mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft answers decade old question, What is the Size of Pluto?

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons mission has answered one of the most basic questions about Pluto—its size.

Mission scientists have found Pluto to be 1,473 miles (2,370 kilometers) in diameter, somewhat larger than many prior estimates. Images acquired with the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were used to make this determination. This result confirms what was already suspected: Pluto is larger than all other known solar system objects beyond the orbit of Neptune.

A portrait from the final approach. Pluto and Charon display striking color and brightness contrast in this composite image from July 11, showing high-resolution black-and-white LORRI images colorized with Ralph data collected from the last rotation of Pluto. Color data being returned by the spacecraft now will update these images, bringing color contrast into sharper focus. (NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI)

A portrait from the final approach. Pluto and Charon display striking color and brightness contrast in this composite image from July 11, showing high-resolution black-and-white LORRI images colorized with Ralph data collected from the last rotation of Pluto. Color data being returned by the spacecraft now will update these images, bringing color contrast into sharper focus. (NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover observes Sunspots on the face of the Sun

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – While busily investigating bedrock types on Mars’ Mount Sharp and preparing for a drill test, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has also been looking up frequently to monitor sunspots on the face of the sun that is turned away from Earth.

Large sunspots are evident in views from Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam). Scientists temporarily have no other resource providing views of the sun from the opposite side of the solar system from Earth. The sun completes a rotation about once a month — faster near its equator than near its poles.

An eruption from the surface of the sun is conspicuous in the lower left portion of this July 6, 2015, image from NASA's Earth-orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Image credit: NASA)

An eruption from the surface of the sun is conspicuous in the lower left portion of this July 6, 2015, image from NASA’s Earth-orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Image credit: NASA)

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft to be assisted by other missions during Pluto flyby

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – What’s icy, has “wobbly” potato-shaped moons, and is the world’s best-known dwarf planet? The answer is Pluto, and NASA’s New Horizons is speeding towards the edge of our solar system for a July 14th flyby.

It won’t be making observations alone; NASA’s fleet of observatories will be busy gathering data before and after to help piece together what we know about Pluto, and what features New Horizons data might help explain.

Artist conception of New Horizons Spacecraft. (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

Artist conception of New Horizons Spacecraft. (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft has one year remaining on flight to Jupiter

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – With just one year remaining in a five-year trek to Jupiter, the team of NASA’s Juno mission is hard at work preparing for the spacecraft’s expedition to the solar system’s largest planet.

The mission aims to reveal the story of Jupiter’s formation and details of its interior structure. Data from Juno will provide insights about our solar system’s beginnings, and what we learn from the mission will also enrich scientists’ understanding of giant planets around other stars.

This artist's rendering shows NASA's Juno spacecraft making one of its close passes over Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows NASA’s Juno spacecraft making one of its close passes over Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA gives explanation for extra second on June 30th, 2015

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The day was officially a bit longer than usual on Tuesday, June 30th, 2015, because an extra second, or “leap” second, was added.

“Earth’s rotation is gradually slowing down a bit, so leap seconds are a way to account for that,” said Daniel MacMillan of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Strictly speaking, a day lasts 86,400 seconds. That is the case, according to the time standard that people use in their daily lives – Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC. UTC is “atomic time” – the duration of one second is based on extremely predictable electromagnetic transitions in atoms of cesium. These transitions are so reliable that the cesium clock is accurate to one second in 1,400,000 years.

A flower clock is seen in the Jardin Anglais, Geneva, Switzerland. (Claude Meisch/Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons License)

A flower clock is seen in the Jardin Anglais, Geneva, Switzerland. (Claude Meisch/Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons License)

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