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Topic: NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute

NASA’s Juno Spacecraft examination of Jupiter will help us better understand far off worlds

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Our galaxy is home to a bewildering variety of Jupiter-like worlds: hot ones, cold ones, giant versions of our own giant, pint-sized pretenders only half as big around.

Astronomers say that in our galaxy alone, a billion or more such Jupiter-like worlds could be orbiting stars other than our sun. And we can use them to gain a better understanding of our solar system and our galactic environment, including the prospects for finding life.

It turns out the inverse is also true — we can turn our instruments and probes to our own backyard, and view Jupiter as if it were an exoplanet to learn more about those far-off worlds.

Comparing Jupiter with Jupiter-like planets that orbit other stars can teach us about those distant worlds, and reveal new insights about our own solar system's formation and evolution. (Illustration) (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Comparing Jupiter with Jupiter-like planets that orbit other stars can teach us about those distant worlds, and reveal new insights about our own solar system’s formation and evolution. (Illustration) (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft discovers 104 Planets outside our Solar System

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – An international team of astronomers has discovered and confirmed a treasure trove of new worlds using NASA’s Kepler spacecraft on its K2 mission. Out of 197 initial planet candidates, scientists have confirmed 104 planets outside our solar system. Among the confirmed is a planetary system comprising four promising planets that could be rocky.

These four planets, all between 20 and 50 percent larger than Earth by diameter, are orbiting the M dwarf star K2-72, found 181 light-years away in the direction of the Aquarius constellation. The host star is less than half the size of the sun and less bright.

This artist's concept shows NASA's Kepler Space Telescope on its K2 mission. In July 2016, an international team of astronomers announced they had discovered more than 100 new planets using this telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope on its K2 mission. In July 2016, an international team of astronomers announced they had discovered more than 100 new planets using this telescope. (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 uses Keck Observatory telescopes to determine dust will likely not to block images of star’s Planets

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Planet hunters received some good news recently. A new study concluded that, on average, sun-like stars aren’t all that dusty. Less dust means better odds of snapping clear pictures of the stars’ planets in the future.

These results come from surveying nearly 50 stars from 2008 to 2011 using the Keck Interferometer, a former NASA key science project that combined the power of the twin W. M. Keck Observatory telescopes atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

A dusty planetary system (left) is compared to another system with little dust in this artist's conception. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A dusty planetary system (left) is compared to another system with little dust in this artist’s conception. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA observes Three Large Volcanic Eruptions on Jupiter’s Moon Io

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Three massive volcanic eruptions occurred on Jupiter’s moon Io within a two-week period in August of last year. This led astronomers to speculate that such “outbursts,” which can send material hundreds of miles above the surface, might be much more common than they thought.

“We typically expect one huge outburst every one or two years, and they’re usually not this bright,” said Imke de Pater, professor and chair of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of one of two papers describing the eruptions. “Here we had three extremely bright outbursts, which suggest that if we looked more frequently we might see many more of them on Io.”

Jupiter's moon Io saw three massive volcanic eruptions within a two-week period last August. (Katherine de Kleer/UC Berkeley/Gemini Observatory)

Jupiter’s moon Io saw three massive volcanic eruptions within a two-week period last August. (Katherine de Kleer/UC Berkeley/Gemini Observatory)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope finds Star System with a Hula Hoop

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have spotted a young stellar system that “blinks” every 93 days. Called YLW 16A, the system likely consists of three developing stars, two of which are surrounded by a disk of material left over from the star-formation process.

As the two inner stars whirl around each other, they periodically peek out from the disk that girds them like a hula hoop. The hoop itself appears to be misaligned from the central star pair, probably due to the disrupting gravitational presence of the third star orbiting at the periphery of the system.

In this artist's impression, a disk of dusty material leftover from star formation girds two young stars like a hula hoop. As the two stars whirl around each other, they periodically peek out from the disk, making the system appear to "blink" every 93 days. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

In this artist’s impression, a disk of dusty material leftover from star formation girds two young stars like a hula hoop. As the two stars whirl around each other, they periodically peek out from the disk, making the system appear to “blink” every 93 days. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute says Alien Life Forms might be able to exist on Odd Exoplanets

 

Written by Josh Rodriguez
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers have discovered a veritable rogues’ gallery of odd exoplanets — from scorching hot worlds with molten surfaces to frigid ice balls.

And while the hunt continues for the elusive “blue dot” — a planet with roughly the same characteristics as Earth — new research reveals that life might actually be able to survive on some of the many exoplanetary oddballs that exist.

“When we’re talking about a habitable planet, we’re talking about a world where liquid water can exist,” said Stephen Kane, a scientist with the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “A planet needs to be the right distance from its star — not too hot and not too cold.” Determined by the size and heat of the star, this temperature range is commonly referred to as the “habitable zone” around a star.

A hypothetical planet is depicted here moving through the habitable zone and then further out into a long, cold winter. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A hypothetical planet is depicted here moving through the habitable zone and then further out into a long, cold winter. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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Study Shows Our Galaxy Has at Least 100 Billion Planets

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Our Milky Way galaxy contains a minimum of 100 billion planets, according to a detailed statistical study based on the detection of three planets located outside our solar system, called exoplanets.

The discovery reported in the January 12th issue of Nature, was made by an international team of astronomers, including co-author Stephen Kane of NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA.

This artist's illustration gives an impression of how common planets are around the stars in the Milky Way galaxy. The planets, their orbits, and their host stars are all vastly magnified compared to their real separations. A six- year search that surveyed millions of stars using the microlensing technique concluded that planets around stars are the rule rather than the exception. The average number of planets per star is greater than one. (Image credit: NASA/ESA/ESO)

This artist's illustration gives an impression of how common planets are around the stars in the Milky Way galaxy. The planets, their orbits, and their host stars are all vastly magnified compared to their real separations. A six- year search that surveyed millions of stars using the microlensing technique concluded that planets around stars are the rule rather than the exception. The average number of planets per star is greater than one. (Image credit: NASA/ESA/ESO)

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