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Topic: Sun

After 6 years, NASA’s Kepler space telescope has found over 1,000 planets and counting

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Kepler spacecraft began hunting for planets outside our solar system on May 12th, 2009. From the trove of data collected, we have learned that planets are common, that most sun-like stars have at least one planet and that nature makes planets with unimaginable diversity.

Kepler launched on March 6th, 2009. Its mission was to survey a portion of our galaxy to determine what fraction of stars might harbor potentially habitable, Earth-sized exoplanets, or planets that orbit other stars.

The artistic concept shows NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. Using publicly available data, astronomers may have confirmed K2's first discovery of star with more than one planet. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

The artistic concept shows NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. Using publicly available data, astronomers may have confirmed K2’s first discovery of star with more than one planet. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

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NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) hears the possible sounds of Dead Stars

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Peering into the heart of the Milky Way galaxy, NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) has spotted a mysterious glow of high-energy X-rays that, according to scientists, could be the “howls” of dead stars as they feed on stellar companions.

“We can see a completely new component of the center of our galaxy with NuSTAR’s images,” said Kerstin Perez of Columbia University in New York, lead author of a new report on the findings in the journal Nature. “We can’t definitively explain the X-ray signal yet — it’s a mystery. More work needs to be done.”

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has captured a new high-energy X-ray view (magenta) of the bustling center of our Milky Way galaxy. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has captured a new high-energy X-ray view (magenta) of the bustling center of our Milky Way galaxy. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope discovers gas planet in the far reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has teamed up with a telescope on the ground to find a remote gas planet about 13,000 light-years away, making it one of the most distant planets known.

The discovery demonstrates that Spitzer — from its unique perch in space — can be used to help solve the puzzle of how planets are distributed throughout our flat, spiral-shaped Milky Way galaxy. Are they concentrated heavily in its central hub, or more evenly spread throughout its suburbs?

This artist's map of the Milky Way shows the location of one of the farthest known exoplanets, lying 13,000 light-years away. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s map of the Milky Way shows the location of one of the farthest known exoplanets, lying 13,000 light-years away. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) images now available Online to the Public

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Millions of images of celestial objects, including asteroids, observed by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft now are available online to the public. The data was collected following the restart of the asteroid-seeking spacecraft in December 2013 after a lengthy hibernation.

The collection of millions of infrared images and billions of infrared measurements of asteroids, stars, galaxies and quasars spans data obtained between December 13th, 2013, and December 13th, 2014.

The NEOWISE spacecraft viewed comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) on January 30, 2015, at a solar distance of 120 million miles (193 million kilometers). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The NEOWISE spacecraft viewed comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) on January 30, 2015, at a solar distance of 120 million miles (193 million kilometers). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA looks into the mystery of the Sun’s Nanoflares

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – When you attach the prefix “nano” to something, it usually means “very small.” Solar flares appear to be the exception.

Researchers are studying a type of explosion on the sun called a ‘nanoflare.’  A billion times less energetic than ordinary flares, nanoflares have a power that belies their name.

“A typical ‘nanoflare’ has the same energy as 240 megatons of TNT,” says physicist David Smith of UC Santa Cruz. “That would be something like 10,000 atomic fission bombs.”

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NASA to launch Magnetospheric Multiscale mission to study explosions in Earth’s Magnetic Field

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Magnetic reconnection could be the Universe’s favorite way to make things explode.

It operates anywhere magnetic fields pervade space–which is to say almost everywhere. In the cores of galaxies, magnetic reconnection sparks explosions visible billions of light-years away. On the sun, it causes solar flares as powerful as a million atomic bombs. At Earth, it powers magnetic storms and auroras. It’s ubiquitous.

The problem is, researchers can’t explain it.

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NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale Probe set to launch March 12th

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, mission is scheduled to launch into space on March 12th, 2015. The mission consists of four spacecraft to observe a phenomenon called magnetic reconnection — which doesn’t happen naturally on Earth all that often, but is a regular occurrence in space.

At the heart of magnetic reconnection is a fundamental physics process in which magnetic field lines come together and explosively realign, often sending the particles in the area flying off near the speed of light.

Solar flares – such as this one captured by NASA's SDO on July 12, 2012, are initiated by a phenomenon called magnetic reconnection. (NASA/SDO)

Solar flares – such as this one captured by NASA’s SDO on July 12, 2012, are initiated by a phenomenon called magnetic reconnection. (NASA/SDO)

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NASA reports Astronomers discovers Planet in Multiple Star System

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Growing up as a planet with more than one parent star has its challenges. Though the planets in our solar system circle just one star — our sun — other more distant planets, called exoplanets, can be reared in families with two or more stars.

Researchers wanting to know more about the complex influences of multiple stars on planets have come up with two new case studies: a planet found to have three parents, and another with four.

This artist's conception shows the 30 Ari system, which includes four stars and a planet. The planet, a gas giant, orbits its primary star (yellow) in about a year's time. (Karen Teramura, UH IfA)

This artist’s conception shows the 30 Ari system, which includes four stars and a planet. The planet, a gas giant, orbits its primary star (yellow) in about a year’s time. (Karen Teramura, UH IfA)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft to enter orbit around Dwarf Planet Ceres on March 6th

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has returned new images captured on approach to its historic orbit insertion at the dwarf planet Ceres. Dawn will be the first mission to successfully visit a dwarf planet when it enters orbit around Ceres on Friday, March 6th.

“Dawn is about to make history,” said Robert Mase, project manager for the Dawn mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Our team is ready and eager to find out what Ceres has in store for us.”

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft observes moon Charon orbiting Pluto

 

NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – This time-lapse “movie” of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, was recently shot at record-setting distances with the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. The movie was made over about a week, from January 25th-31st, 2015.

It was taken as part of the mission’s second optical navigation (“OpNav”) campaign to better refine the locations of Pluto and Charon in preparation for the spacecraft’s close encounter with the small planet and its five moons on July 14th, 2015.

This time-lapse “movie” of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, was recently shot at record-setting distances with the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA/APL/Southwest Research Institute)

This time-lapse “movie” of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, was recently shot at record-setting distances with the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA/APL/Southwest Research Institute)

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