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Topic: Planets

New Spacecraft being design by NASA may one day take images of Earth like Planets

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A spacecraft that looks like a giant sunflower might one day be used to acquire images of Earth-like rocky planets around nearby stars. The prototype deployable structure, called a starshade, is being developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.

The hunt is on for planets that resemble Earth in size, composition and temperature. Rocky planets with just the right temperature for liquid water — not too hot, not too cold — could be possible abodes for life outside our solar system.

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NASA says Astronomers may have solved mystery behind Planet forming Disks

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers say that magnetic storms in the gas orbiting young stars may explain a mystery that has persisted since before 2006.

Researchers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to study developing stars have had a hard time figuring out why the stars give off more infrared light than expected. The planet-forming disks that circle the young stars are heated by starlight and glow with infrared light, but Spitzer detected additional infrared light coming from an unknown source.

Magnetic loops carry gas and dust above disks of planet-forming material circling stars, as shown in this artist's conception. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Magnetic loops carry gas and dust above disks of planet-forming material circling stars, as shown in this artist’s conception. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s NEOWISE spacecraft spots it’s first Comet since being reactivated

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft has spotted a never-before-seen comet — its first such discovery since coming out of hibernation late last year.

“We are so pleased to have discovered this frozen visitor from the outermost reaches of our solar system,” said Amy Mainzer, the mission’s principal investigator from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. “This comet is a weirdo – it is in a retrograde orbit, meaning that it orbits the sun in the opposite sense from Earth and the other planets.”

Comet NEOWISE was first observed by NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft on Valentine's Day, 2014.

Comet NEOWISE was first observed by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft on Valentine’s Day, 2014.

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Over 700 new planets discovered by NASA’s Kepler Mission

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system.

Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system.

The artist concept depicts "multiple-transiting planet systems," which are stars with more than one planet. (NASA)

The artist concept depicts “multiple-transiting planet systems,” which are stars with more than one planet. (NASA)

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NASA reports Herschel Space Observatory discovers water vapor on Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Scientists using the Herschel space observatory have made the first definitive detection of water vapor on the largest and roundest object in the asteroid belt, dwarf planet Ceres.

“This is the first time water vapor has been unequivocally detected on Ceres or any other object in the asteroid belt and provides proof that Ceres has an icy surface and an atmosphere,” said Michael Küppers of ESA in Spain, lead author of a paper in the journal Nature.

An artist's concept of Ceres with vaporous jets in the asteroid belt. (ESA/ATG medialab)

An artist’s concept of Ceres with vaporous jets in the asteroid belt. (ESA/ATG medialab)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope observations brings new Insight about Planets Kepler’s discovered

 

Written by Michele Johnson
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – More than three-quarters of the planet candidates discovered by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft have sizes ranging from that of Earth to that of Neptune, which is nearly four times as big as Earth. Such planets dominate the galactic census but are not represented in our own solar system. Astronomers don’t know how they form or if they are made of rock, water or gas.

The Kepler team issued a report on four years of ground-based follow-up observations targeting Kepler’s exoplanet systems at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington. These observations confirm the numerous Kepler discoveries are indeed planets and yield mass measurements of these enigmatic worlds that vary between Earth and Neptune in size.

Chart of Kepler planet candidates as of January 2014. Image (NASA Ames Research Center)

Chart of Kepler planet candidates as of January 2014. Image (NASA Ames Research Center)

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NASA reports Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) begins studying distant planets

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After nearly a decade of development, construction and testing, the world’s most advanced instrument for directly imaging and analyzing planets around other stars is pointing skyward and collecting light from distant worlds.

The instrument, called the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), was designed, built, and optimized for imaging giant planets next to bright stars, in addition to studying dusty disks around young stars.

This image taken by the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) shows a planet orbiting the star Beta Pictoris. In addition to the image, the GPI obtains spectral information from every pixel element in the field of view, allowing scientists to study the planet in great detail. (Gemini/Christian Marois, NRC Canada)

This image taken by the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) shows a planet orbiting the star Beta Pictoris. In addition to the image, the GPI obtains spectral information from every pixel element in the field of view, allowing scientists to study the planet in great detail. (Gemini/Christian Marois, NRC Canada)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope observations reveal possible Stormy Weather on Brown Dwarfs

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Cool celestial orbs called brown dwarfs may have swirling, stormy clouds present. New observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope suggest that most brown dwarfs are roiling with one or more planet-size storms akin to Jupiter’s “Great Red Spot.”

“As the brown dwarfs spin on their axis, the alternation of what we think are cloud-free and cloudy regions produces a periodic brightness variation that we can observe,” said Stanimir Metchev of the University of Western Ontario, Canada. “These are signs of patchiness in the cloud cover.”

This artist's concept shows what the weather might look like on cool star-like bodies known as brown dwarfs. These giant balls of gas start out life like stars, but lack the mass to sustain nuclear fusion at their cores, and instead, fade and cool with time. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Western Ontario/Stony Brook University)

This artist’s concept shows what the weather might look like on cool star-like bodies known as brown dwarfs. These giant balls of gas start out life like stars, but lack the mass to sustain nuclear fusion at their cores, and instead, fade and cool with time. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Western Ontario/Stony Brook University)

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NASA’s Kepler space telescope provides data on distant planets

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – More than three-quarters of the planet candidates discovered by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft have sizes ranging from that of Earth to that of Neptune, which is nearly four times as big as Earth.

Such planets dominate the galactic census but are not represented in our own solar system. Astronomers don’t know how they form or if they are made of rock, water or gas.

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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NASA’s Deep Space Network celebrates 50 years of operation

 

Written by David Israel
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Deep Space Network, the world’s largest and most powerful communications system for “talking to” spacecraft, will reach a milestone on December 24th: the 50th anniversary of its official creation.

Over the past 50 years, antennas of the Deep Space Network (DSN) have communicated with just about every mission that has gone to the moon or beyond. The historic communiqués include “That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind”; numerous encounters with the outer planets of our solar system; images taken by rovers exploring Mars; and the data confirming that NASA’s Voyager spacecraft had finally entered interstellar space.

Beam Wave Guide antennas at Goldstone, known as the "Beam Waveguide Cluster." Each antenna is 111.5-feet (34-m) in diameter. They're located in an area at Goldstone called "Apollo Valley." This photograph was taken on Jan. 11th, 2012. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Beam Wave Guide antennas at Goldstone, known as the “Beam Waveguide Cluster.” Each antenna is 111.5-feet (34-m) in diameter. They’re located in an area at Goldstone called “Apollo Valley.” This photograph was taken on Jan. 11th, 2012. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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