Pasadena, CA – When a new NASA space telescope opens its eyes in the mid-2020s, it will peer at the universe through some of the most sophisticated sunglasses ever designed.
This multi-layered technology, the coronagraph instrument, might more rightly be called “starglasses”: a system of masks, prisms, detectors and even self-flexing mirrors built to block out the glare from distant stars – and reveal the planets in orbit around them.
Pasadena, CA – NASA says the feat of staying highly synchronized while airborne can be appreciated by anyone who’s ever seen aircraft engaged in formation flying. In work sponsored by NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program (ExEP), engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are taking formation flying to a new extreme.
Their work marks an important milestone within a larger program to test the feasibility of a technology called a starshade. Although starshades have never flown in space, they hold the potential to enable groundbreaking observations of planets beyond our solar system, including pictures of planets as small as Earth.
Greenbelt, MD – NASA says scientists may have found a way to tell if alien worlds have a climate that is suitable for life by analyzing the light from these worlds for special signatures that are characteristic of a life-friendly environment.
This technique could reveal the inner edge of a star’s habitable zone, the region around a star where liquid water could exist on the surface of a rocky planet.
“Habitable planets by definition have water on their surfaces,” said Eric Wolf of the University of Colorado, Boulder. “However, water can come in the forms of ocean, ice, snow, vapor, or cloud. Each of these forms of water have very different effects on climate. ”
Mountain View, CA – Astronomers have discovered a third planet in the Kepler-47 system, securing the system’s title as the most interesting of the binary-star worlds. Using data from the NASA Kepler space telescope, a team of researchers, led by astronomers at San Diego State University, detected the new Neptune-to-Saturn-size planet orbiting between two previously known planets.
With its three planets orbiting two suns, Kepler-47 is the only known multi-planet circumbinary system. Circumbinary planets are those that orbit two stars.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are cooking up an alien atmosphere right here on Earth. In a new study, JPL scientists used a high-temperature “oven” to heat a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide to more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,100 Celsius), about the temperature of molten lava.
The aim was to simulate conditions that might be found in the atmospheres of a special class of exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) called “hot Jupiters.”
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD – NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has found three confirmed exoplanets, or worlds beyond our solar system, in its first three months of observations.
The mission’s sensitive cameras also captured 100 short-lived changes — most of them likely stellar outbursts — in the same region of the sky. They include six supernova explosions whose brightening light was recorded by TESS even before the outbursts were discovered by ground-based telescopes.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – NASA has a new mission to Mars, and it’s taking podcast listeners along for the ride.
Launched Monday, October 29th, 2018 the eight-episode series “On a Mission” follows the InSight lander as it travels hundreds of millions of miles and attempts to land on Mars on November 26th.
“On a Mission” will be the first JPL podcast to track a mission during flight, through interviews with the InSight team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Washington, D.C. – Using NASA’s Hubble and Kepler space telescopes, astronomers have uncovered tantalizing evidence of what could be the first discovery of a moon orbiting a planet outside our solar system.
This moon candidate, which is 8,000 light-years from Earth in the Cygnus constellation, orbits a gas-giant planet that, in turn, orbits a star called Kepler-1625. Researchers caution that the moon hypothesis is tentative and must be confirmed by follow-up Hubble observations.
Washington, D.C. – Since the beginning of civilization, humanity has wondered whether we are alone in the universe. As NASA has explored our solar system and beyond, it has developed increasingly sophisticated tools to address this fundamental question.
Within our solar system, NASA’s missions have searched for signs of both ancient and current life, especially on Mars and soon, Jupiter’s moon Europa. Beyond our solar system, missions, such as Kepler and TESS, are revealing thousands of planets orbiting other stars.
NASA’s Ames Research Center
Mountain View, CA – Scientists have always wondered how Uranus got tilted so much that it spins on its side, and now research on the planet’s early formation gives us new insight. Four billion years ago, scientists believe a young proto-planet of rock and ice collided with Uranus, causing its extreme tilt. Instead of rotating like a top spinning nearly upright, as Earth does, the planet “rolls” on its side as it circles the sun.
The research team, led by Durham University, UK, in collaboration with scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, used advanced computing techniques to create the most detailed simulation to date of the suspected impact.
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