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Topic: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite to look for undiscovered Planets

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is undergoing final preparations in Florida for its April 16th launch to find undiscovered worlds around nearby stars, providing targets where future studies will assess their capacity to harbor life.

“One of the biggest questions in exoplanet exploration is: If an astronomer finds a planet in a star’s habitable zone, will it be interesting from a biologist’s point of view?” said George Ricker, TESS principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research in Cambridge, which is leading the mission. “We expect TESS will discover a number of planets whose atmospheric compositions, which hold potential clues to the presence of life, could be precisely measured by future observers.”

Illustration of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star. TESS will identify thousands of potential new planets for further study and observation. (NASA/GSFC)

Illustration of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star. TESS will identify thousands of potential new planets for further study and observation. (NASA/GSFC)

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NASA continues research into discovering nature of Dark Matter

 

Written by Molly Porter
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – An innovative interpretation of X-ray data from a cluster of galaxies could help scientists fulfill a quest they have been on for decades: determining the nature of dark matter.

The finding involves a new explanation for a set of results made with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, ESA’s XMM-Newton and Hitomi, a Japanese-led X-ray telescope. If confirmed with future observations, this may represent a major step forward in understanding the nature of the mysterious, invisible substance that makes up about 85% of matter in the universe.

Composite image of the Perseus galaxy cluster using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, ESA’s XMM-Newton and Hitomi, a Japanese-led X-ray telescope. (X-ray: NASA/CXO/Fabian et al.; Radio: Gendron-Marsolais et al.; NRAO/AUI/NSF Optical: NASA, SDSS)

Composite image of the Perseus galaxy cluster using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, ESA’s XMM-Newton and Hitomi, a Japanese-led X-ray telescope. (X-ray: NASA/CXO/Fabian et al.; Radio: Gendron-Marsolais et al.; NRAO/AUI/NSF Optical: NASA, SDSS)

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NASA takes a look back at Supernova 1987a

 

Written by Rob Gutro
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Three decades ago, astronomers spotted one of the brightest exploding stars in more than 400 years. The titanic supernova, called Supernova 1987A (SN 1987A), blazed with the power of 100 million suns for several months following its discovery on February 23rd, 1987.

Since that first sighting, SN 1987A has continued to fascinate astronomers with its spectacular light show. Located in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud, it is the nearest supernova explosion observed in hundreds of years and the best opportunity yet for astronomers to study the phases before, during, and after the death of a star.

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows Supernova 1987A within the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring galaxy to our Milky Way. (NASA, ESA, R. Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation), and M. Mutchler and R. Avila (STScI))

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows Supernova 1987A within the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring galaxy to our Milky Way. (NASA, ESA, R. Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation), and M. Mutchler and R. Avila (STScI))

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NASA’s NuSTAR satellite discovers new information about Supernova mystery

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA –  “We’re made of star stuff,” astronomer Carl Sagan famously said. Nuclear reactions that happened in ancient stars generated much of the material that makes up our bodies, our planet and our solar system. When stars explode in violent deaths called supernovae, those newly formed elements escape and spread out in the universe.

One supernova in particular is challenging astronomers’ models of how exploding stars distribute their elements. The supernova SN 2014C dramatically changed in appearance over the course of a year, apparently because it had thrown off a lot of material late in its life.

This image from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory shows spiral galaxy NGC 7331, center, in a three-color X-ray image. Red, green and blue colors are used for low, medium and high-energy X-rays, respectively. An unusual supernova called SN 2014C has been spotted in this galaxy, indicated by the box. (NASA/CXC/CIERA/R.Margutti et al)

This image from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory shows spiral galaxy NGC 7331, center, in a three-color X-ray image. Red, green and blue colors are used for low, medium and high-energy X-rays, respectively. An unusual supernova called SN 2014C has been spotted in this galaxy, indicated by the box. (NASA/CXC/CIERA/R.Margutti et al)

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NASA’s Kepler space telescope (K2) discovers Planet being ripped apart by White Dwarf Star

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists using NASA’s repurposed Kepler space telescope, known as the K2 mission, have uncovered strong evidence of a tiny, rocky object being torn apart as it spirals around a white dwarf star. This discovery validates a long-held theory that white dwarfs are capable of cannibalizing possible remnant planets that have survived within its solar system.

“We are for the first time witnessing a miniature “planet” ripped apart by intense gravity, being vaporized by starlight and raining rocky material onto its star,” said Andrew Vanderburg, graduate student at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and lead author of the paper published in Nature.

In this artist's conception, a tiny rocky object vaporizes as it orbits a white dwarf star. Astronomers have detected the first planetary object transiting a white dwarf using data from the K2 mission. Slowly the object will disintegrate, leaving a dusting of metals on the surface of the star. (CfA/Mark A. Garlick)

In this artist’s conception, a tiny rocky object vaporizes as it orbits a white dwarf star. Astronomers have detected the first planetary object transiting a white dwarf using data from the K2 mission. Slowly the object will disintegrate, leaving a dusting of metals on the surface of the star. (CfA/Mark A. Garlick)

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NASA’s Kepler spacecraft discovers it’s first Exoplanet during new mission

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA -NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft makes a comeback with the discovery of the first exoplanet found using its new mission — K2.

The discovery was made when astronomers and engineers devised an ingenious way to repurpose Kepler for the K2 mission and continue its search of the cosmos for other worlds.

“Last summer, the possibility of a scientifically productive mission for Kepler after its reaction wheel failure in its extended mission was not part of the conversation,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s astrophysics division director at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “Today, thanks to an innovative idea and lots of hard work by the NASA and Ball Aerospace team, Kepler may well deliver the first candidates for follow-up study by the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize the atmospheres of distant worlds and search for signatures of life.”

The artistic concept shows NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

The artistic concept shows NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

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NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory for the first time sees Eclipsing Planet in X-rays

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationCambridge, MA – For the first time since exoplanets, or planets around stars other than the sun, were discovered almost 20 years ago, X-ray observations have detected an exoplanet passing in front of its parent star.

An advantageous alignment of a planet and its parent star in the system HD 189733, which is 63 light-years from Earth, enabled NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM Newton Observatory to observe a dip in X-ray intensity as the planet transited the star.

This graphic depicts HD 189733b, the first exoplanet caught passing in front of its parent star in X-rays. (Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/K.Poppenhaeger et al; Illustration: NASA)

This graphic depicts HD 189733b, the first exoplanet caught passing in front of its parent star in X-rays. (Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/K.Poppenhaeger et al; Illustration: NASA)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope data shows possibility of Earth Size planet just 13 light years from Earth

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Using publicly available data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics estimate that six percent of red dwarf stars in the galaxy have Earth-size planets in the “habitable zone,” the range of distances from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water.

The majority of the sun’s closest stellar neighbors are red dwarfs. Researchers now believe that an Earth-size planet with a moderate temperature may be just 13 light-years away.

Astronomers estimate that six percent of red dwarfs have a temperate Earth-size planet, as close as 13 light-years away. (Image credit: D. Aguilar/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

Astronomers estimate that six percent of red dwarfs have a temperate Earth-size planet, as close as 13 light-years away. (Image credit: D. Aguilar/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope data helps Astronomers Discover Planetary Oddity

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers have discovered a pair of neighboring planets with dissimilar densities orbiting very close to each other. The planets are too close to their star to be in the so-called “habitable zone,” the region in a star system where liquid water might exist on the surface, but they have the closest orbits between two planets ever confirmed.

The findings appeared in the journal Science.

This artist's conception shows Kepler-36c as it might look from the surface of neighboring Kepler-36b. (Image credit: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

This artist’s conception shows Kepler-36c as it might look from the surface of neighboring Kepler-36b. (Image credit: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope Discovers Waterworld Planet

 

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationCambridge, MA – An international team of astronomers led by Zachory Berta of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) made the observations of the planet GJ 1214b.

“GJ 1214b is like no planet we know of,” Berta said. “A huge fraction of its mass is made up of water.”

The ground-based MEarth Project, led by CfA’s David Charbonneau, discovered GJ 1214b in 2009. This super-Earth is about 2.7 times Earth’s diameter and weighs almost seven times as much. It orbits a red-dwarf star every 38 hours at a distance of 2 million kilometres, giving it an estimated temperature of 230 degrees Celsius.

GJ1214b, shown in this artist's view, is a super-Earth orbiting a red dwarf star 40 light-years from Earth. New observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show that it is a waterworld enshrouded by a thick, steamy atmosphere. GJ1214b represents a new type of planet, like nothing seen in our solar system or any other planetary system currently known. It’s smaller than Uranus but larger than Earth. (Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Aguilar (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics))

GJ1214b, shown in this artist's view, is a super-Earth orbiting a red dwarf star 40 light-years from Earth. New observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show that it is a waterworld enshrouded by a thick, steamy atmosphere. GJ1214b represents a new type of planet, like nothing seen in our solar system or any other planetary system currently known. It’s smaller than Uranus but larger than Earth. (Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Aguilar (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics))

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