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Topic: Planets

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope identifies details of TRAPPIST-1h orbits

 

Written by Michele Johnson
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – Scientists using NASA’s Kepler space telescope identified a regular pattern in the orbits of the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system that confirmed suspected details about the orbit of its outermost and least understood planet, TRAPPIST-1h.

TRAPPIST-1 is only eight percent the mass of our sun, making it a cooler and less luminous star. It’s home to seven Earth-size planets, three of which orbit in their star’s habitable zone — the range of distances from a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of a rocky planet. The system is located about 40 light-years away in the constellation of Aquarius. The star is estimated to be between 3 billion and 8 billion years old.

This artist's concept shows TRAPPIST-1h, one of seven Earth-size planets in the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system. NASA's Kepler spacecraft, operating in its K2 mission, obtained data that allowed scientists to determine that the orbital period of TRAPPIST-1h is 19 days. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows TRAPPIST-1h, one of seven Earth-size planets in the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system. NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, operating in its K2 mission, obtained data that allowed scientists to determine that the orbital period of TRAPPIST-1h is 19 days. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reviews plans for Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST)

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA is initiating an independent, external review over the next several months on the scope of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) project to help ensure it would provide compelling scientific capability with an appropriate, affordable cost and a reliable schedule.
 
“Developing large space missions is difficult,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is the right time for us to pause for an independent look at our plans to make sure we understand how long it will take, and how much it will cost, to build WFIRST.”

NASA's next generation telescope, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). (NASA)

NASA’s next generation telescope, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). (NASA)

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NASA says Habitable “Tatooine” type planets could be possible

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – With two suns in its sky, Luke Skywalker’s home planet Tatooine in “Star Wars” looks like a parched, sandy desert world. In real life, thanks to observatories such as NASA’s Kepler space telescope, we know that two-star systems can indeed support planets, although planets discovered so far around double-star systems are large and gaseous. Scientists wondered: If an Earth-size planet were orbiting two suns, could it support life?

It turns out, such a planet could be quite hospitable if located at the right distance from its two stars, and wouldn’t necessarily even have deserts.

This artist's concept shows a hypothetical planet covered in water around the binary star system of Kepler-35A and B. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows a hypothetical planet covered in water around the binary star system of Kepler-35A and B. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA is developing Tech, Robotic Arms to explore Icy, Ocean Worlds

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Want to go ice fishing on Jupiter’s moon Europa? There’s no promising you’ll catch anything, but a new set of robotic prototypes could help.

Since 2015, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has been developing new technologies for use on future missions to ocean worlds. That includes a subsurface probe that could burrow through miles of ice, taking samples along the way; robotic arms that unfold to reach faraway objects; and a projectile launcher for even more distant samples.

A robotic claw, one of several innovative tools developed at JPL for exploring icy, ocean worlds like Europa. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A robotic claw, one of several innovative tools developed at JPL for exploring icy, ocean worlds like Europa. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA picks 10 Studies for future CubeSat missions

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has selected 10 studies under the Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies (PSDS3) program to develop mission concepts using small satellites to investigate Venus, Earth’s moon, asteroids, Mars and the outer planets.

For these studies, small satellites are defined as less than 180 kilograms in mass (about 400 pounds). CubeSats are built to standard specifications of 1 unit (U), which is equal to about 4x4x4 inches (10x10x10 centimeters). They often are launched into orbit as auxiliary payloads, significantly reducing costs.

A global view of Venus created from Magellan data and a computer-simulated globe. A JPL-led mission concept study was recently selected to study Venus using a Cubesat. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A global view of Venus created from Magellan data and a computer-simulated globe. A JPL-led mission concept study was recently selected to study Venus using a Cubesat. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA prepares Satellites for alignment of Planets and Stars

 

Written by Mara Johnson-Groh
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The movements of the stars and the planets have almost no impact on life on Earth, but a few times per year, the alignment of celestial bodies has a visible effect.

One of these geometric events — the spring equinox — is just around the corner, and another major alignment — a total solar eclipse — will be visible across America on August 21st, with a fleet of NASA satellites viewing it from space and providing images of the event.

To understand the basics of celestial alignments, here is information on equinoxes, solstices, full moons, eclipses and transits:

During a transit, a planet passes in between us and the star it orbits. This method is commonly used to find new exoplanets in our galaxy. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Genna Duberstein)

During a transit, a planet passes in between us and the star it orbits. This method is commonly used to find new exoplanets in our galaxy. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Genna Duberstein)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope provides additional data on system with 7 Earth Size Planets

 

Written by Michele Johnson
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – On February 22nd, astronomers announced that the ultra-cool dwarf star, TRAPPIST-1, hosts a total of seven Earth-size planets that are likely rocky, a discovery made by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope in combination with ground-based telescopes.

NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope also has been observing this star since December 2016. Today these additional data about TRAPPIST-1 from Kepler are available to the scientific community.

This illustration shows the seven TRAPPIST-1 planets as they might look as viewed from Earth using a fictional, incredibly powerful telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration shows the seven TRAPPIST-1 planets as they might look as viewed from Earth using a fictional, incredibly powerful telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to examine Seven Earth Sized Planets

 

Written by Laura Betz
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – With the discovery of seven earth-sized planets around the TRAPPIST-1 star 40 light years away, astronomers are looking to the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope to help us find out if any of these planets could possibly support life.

“If these planets have atmospheres, the James Webb Space Telescope will be the key to unlocking their secrets,” said Doug Hudgins, Exoplanet Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “In the meantime, NASA’s missions like Spitzer, Hubble, and Kepler are following up on these planets.”

Rendering of the James Webb Space Telescope. (Northrop Grumman)

Rendering of the James Webb Space Telescope. (Northrop Grumman)

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NASA finds Red Dwarf Star with several Earth Size Planets in Orbit

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A bumper crop of Earth-size planets huddled around an ultra-cool, red dwarf star could be little more than chunks of rock blasted by radiation, or cloud-covered worlds as broiling hot as Venus.

Or they could harbor exotic lifeforms, thriving under skies of ruddy twilight.

Scientists are pondering the possibilities after this week’s announcement: the discovery of seven worlds orbiting a small, cool star some 40 light-years away, all of them in the ballpark of our home planet in terms of their heft (mass) and size (diameter). Three of the planets reside in the “habitable zone” around their star, TRAPPIST-1, where calculations suggest that conditions might be right for liquid water to exist on their surfaces—though follow-up observations are needed to be sure.

This illustration shows the seven planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1, and ultra-cool dwarf star, as they might look as viewed from Earth using a fictional, incredibly powerful telescope. (NASA-JPL/Caltech)

This illustration shows the seven planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1, and ultra-cool dwarf star, as they might look as viewed from Earth using a fictional, incredibly powerful telescope. (NASA-JPL/Caltech)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope discover Star with Seven Earth Sized Planets in Orbit

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.

The discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. All of these seven planets could have liquid water — key to life as we know it — under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone.

The TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultra-cool dwarf, has seven Earth-size planets orbiting it. This artist's concept appeared on the cover of the journal Nature in Feb. 23, 2017 announcing new results about the system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultra-cool dwarf, has seven Earth-size planets orbiting it. This artist’s concept appeared on the cover of the journal Nature in Feb. 23, 2017 announcing new results about the system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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