Topic: Proxima Centauri
Washington, D.C. – For the first time, a spacecraft has sent back pictures of the sky from so far away that some stars appear to be in different positions than we’d see from Earth.
More than four billion miles from home and speeding toward interstellar space, NASA’s New Horizons has traveled so far that it now has a unique view of the nearest stars.
“It’s fair to say that New Horizons is looking at an alien sky, unlike what we see from Earth,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado.
Washington, D.C. – NASA says once you leave the majestic skies of Earth, the word “cloud” no longer means a white fluffy-looking structure that produces rain. Instead, clouds in the greater universe are clumpy areas of greater density than their surroundings.
Space telescopes have observed these cosmic clouds in the vicinity of supermassive black holes, those mysterious dense objects from which no light can escape, with masses equivalent to more than 100,000 Suns.
Greenbelt, MD – A world between the sizes of Mars and Earth orbiting a bright, cool, nearby star has been discovered by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). The planet, called L 98-59b, marks the tiniest discovered by TESS to date.
Two other worlds orbit the same star. While all three planets’ sizes are known, further study with other telescopes will be needed to determine if they have atmospheres and, if so, which gases are present. The L 98-59 worlds nearly double the number of small exoplanets — that is, planets beyond our solar system — that have the best potential for this kind of follow-up.
Washington, D.C. – The word “HAZMAT” describes substances that pose a risk to the environment, or even to life itself. Imagine the term being applied to entire planets, where violent flares from the host star may make worlds uninhabitable by affecting their atmospheres. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is observing such stars through a large program called HAZMAT — Habitable Zones and M dwarf Activity across Time.
“M dwarf” is the astronomical term for a red dwarf star — the smallest, most abundant and longest-lived type of star in our galaxy. The HAZMAT program is an ultraviolet survey of red dwarfs at three different ages: young, intermediate, and old.
Written by Calla Cofield
Pasadena, CA – Step outside on a clear night, and you can be sure of something our ancestors could only imagine: Every star you see likely plays host to at least one planet.
The worlds orbiting other stars are called “exoplanets,” and they come in a wide variety of sizes, from gas giants larger than Jupiter to small, rocky planets about as big around as Earth or Mars. They can be hot enough to boil metal or locked in deep freeze. They can orbit their stars so tightly that a “year” lasts only a few days; they can orbit two suns at once. Some exoplanets are sunless rogues, wandering through the galaxy in permanent darkness.
Washington, D.C. – Humanity’s great leap into the space between the stars has, in a sense, already begun. NASA’s Voyager 1 probe broke through the sun’s magnetic bubble to touch the interstellar wind. Voyager 2 isn’t far behind. New Horizons shot past Pluto on its way to encounters with more distant dwarf worlds, the rubble at the solar system’s edge.
Closer to home, we’re working on techniques to help us cross greater distances. Astronauts feast on romaine lettuce grown aboard the International Space Station, perhaps a preview of future banquets en route to Mars, or to deep space.
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope captures image of rogue star speeding it’s way through Milky Way Galaxy
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Roguish runaway stars can have a big impact on their surroundings as they plunge through the Milky Way galaxy. Their high-speed encounters shock the galaxy, creating arcs, as seen in this newly released image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.
In this case, the speedster star is known as Kappa Cassiopeiae, or HD 2905 to astronomers. It is a massive, hot supergiant moving at around 2.5 million mph relative to its neighbors (1,100 kilometers per second).
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope gets unique chance to hunt Earth-sized planets during Rare Alignment with Proxima Centauri
Greenbelt, MD – During the next few years, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope will have two opportunities to hunt for Earth-sized planets around the red dwarf Proxima Centauri.
The opportunities will occur in October 2014 and February 2016 when Proxima Centauri, the star nearest to our sun, passes in front of two other stars. Astronomers plotted Proxima Centauri’s precise path in the heavens and predicted the two close encounters using data from Hubble.
NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) discovers closest Star System to Earth found in a Century
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has discovered a pair of stars that has taken over the title for the third-closest star system to the sun. The duo is the closest star system discovered since 1916.
Both stars in the new binary system are “brown dwarfs,” which are stars that are too small in mass to ever become hot enough to ignite hydrogen fusion. As a result, they are very cool and dim, resembling a giant planet like Jupiter more than a bright star like the sun.
NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) finds fewer Brown Dwarfs than Predicted Close to Home
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Astronomers are getting to know the neighbors better. Our sun resides within a spiral arm of our Milky Way galaxy about two-thirds of the way out from the center. It lives in a fairly calm, suburb-like area with an average number of stellar residents.
Recently, NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has been turning up a new crowd of stars close to home: the coldest of the brown dwarf family of “failed” stars.
Now, just as scientists are “meeting and greeting” the new neighbors, WISE has a surprise in store: there are far fewer brown dwarfs around us than predicted.
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