Topic: NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer
Washington, D.C. – Is our solar system located in a typical Milky Way neighborhood? Scientists have gotten closer to answering this question, thanks to the NASA-funded Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 project, a citizen science collaboration between professional scientists and members of the public.
Scientists tapped into the worldwide network of 150,000 volunteers using Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 to find new examples of brown dwarfs. These objects are balls of gas that are not heavy enough to be stars since they can’t power themselves through nuclear fusion the way stars do.
Greenbelt, MD – NASA Hubble Space Telescope images of comet NEOWISE, taken on August 8th, 2020, zero in on the visitor’s coma, the gossamer shell of gas and dust that surrounds its nucleus as it is heated by the Sun. This is the first time Hubble has photographed a comet of this brightness at such resolution after this close of a pass by the Sun.
The comet photos were taken after NEOWISE skimmed closest to the Sun on July 3rd, 2020, at a distance of 27 million miles (43 million kilometers). Other comets often break apart due to thermal and gravitational stresses at such close encounters, but Hubble’s view shows that apparently NEOWISE’s solid nucleus stayed intact.
Pasadena, CA – We’ve never met some of the Sun’s closest neighbors until now. In a new study, astronomers report the discovery of 95 objects known as brown dwarfs, many within a few dozen light-years of the Sun.
They’re well outside the solar system, so don’t experience heat from the Sun, but still inhabit a region astronomers consider our cosmic neighborhood. This collection represents some of the coldest known examples of these objects, which are between the sizes of planets and stars.
Greenbelt, MD – NASA’s Parker Solar Probe was at the right place at the right time to capture a unique view of comet NEOWISE on July 5th, 2020. Parker Solar Probe’s position in space gave the spacecraft an unmatched view of the comet’s twin tails when it was particularly active just after its closest approach to the Sun, called perihelion.
The comet was discovered by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or NEOWISE, on March 27th. Since then, the comet — called comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE and nicknamed comet NEOWISE — has been spotted by several NASA spacecraft, including Parker Solar Probe, NASA’s Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory, the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, and astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
Pasadena, CA – With the help of citizen scientists, astronomers have discovered two highly unusual brown dwarfs, balls of gas that are not massive enough to power themselves the way stars do.
Participants in the NASA-funded Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 project helped lead scientists to these bizarre objects, using data from NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) satellite along with all-sky observations collected between 2009 and 2011 under its previous moniker, WISE. Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 is an example of “citizen science,” a collaboration between professional scientists and members of the public.
Pasadena, CA – NASA says a comet visiting from the most distant parts of our solar system is putting on a spectacular nighttime display. Named Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE, the comet made its once-in-our-lifetimes close approach to the Sun on July 3rd, 2020, and will cross outside Earth’s orbit on its way back to the outer parts of the solar system by mid-August.
The comet cruised just inside Mercury’s orbit on July 3rd. This very close passage by the Sun is cooking the comet’s outermost layers, causing gas and dust to erupt off the icy surface and creating a large tail of debris. And yet the comet has managed to survive this intense roasting.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – An adolescent star in the midst of a dramatic growth phase has been observed with the help of two NASA space telescopes. The youngster belongs to a class of stars that gain mass when matter swirling around the star falls onto its surface.
The in-falling matter causes the star to appear about 100 times brighter. Astronomers have found only 25 stars in this class, and only about half of those have been observed during an outburst.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD – Before NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) started science operations on July 25th, 2018, the planet hunter sent back a stunning sequence of serendipitous images showing the motion of a comet.
Taken over the course of 17 hours on July 25th, these TESS images helped demonstrate the satellite’s ability to collect a prolonged set of stable periodic images covering a broad region of the sky — all critical factors in finding transiting planets orbiting nearby stars.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – Nearly all asteroids are so far away and so small that the astronomical community only knows them as moving points of light. The rare exceptions are asteroids that have been visited by spacecraft, a small number of large asteroids resolved by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope or large ground-based telescopes, or those that have come close enough for radar imaging.
When seen by optical telescopes, these individual sources of reflected sunlight can provide some very valuable but also very basic information — for example, the asteroid’s orbit, a ballpark estimate of its size, sometimes an approximation of its shape, and perhaps an idea of its physical makeup.
NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) has discovered 788 near-Earth objects and 136 comets
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission has released its fourth year of survey data. Since the mission was restarted in December 2013, after a period of hibernation, the asteroid- and comet-hunter has completely scanned the skies nearly eight times and has observed and characterized 29,375 objects in four years of operations. This total includes 788 near-Earth objects and 136 comets since the mission restart.
Near-Earth objects (NEOs) are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of the planets in our solar system into orbits that allow them to enter Earth’s neighborhood.
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