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Topic: Proxima Centauri

NASA’s New Horizons Conducts the First Interstellar Parallax Experiment

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, 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.

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA)

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA)

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NASA Explains Why Clouds Form Near Black Holes

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, 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.

This illustration depicts a quasar, a type of active galactic nucleus, surrounded by a dusty donut shape (torus) and clumps called “clouds.” These clouds start small but can expand to be more than 1 parsec (3.3 light-years) wide. In this diagram, the clouds are at least 1 parsec from the torus. (Illustration by Nima Abkenar)

This illustration depicts a quasar, a type of active galactic nucleus, surrounded by a dusty donut shape (torus) and clumps called “clouds.” These clouds start small but can expand to be more than 1 parsec (3.3 light-years) wide. In this diagram, the clouds are at least 1 parsec from the torus. (Illustration by Nima Abkenar)

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Small Planet discovered by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, 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.

Illustration of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

Illustration of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope observes Young Red Dwarf Stars Superflares

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, 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.

Violent outbursts of seething gas from young red dwarf stars may make conditions uninhabitable on fledgling planets. In this artist's rendering, an active, young red dwarf (right) is stripping the atmosphere from an orbiting planet (left). Scientists found that flares from the youngest red dwarfs they surveyed — approximately 40 million years old — are 100 to 1,000 times more energetic than when the stars are older. They also detected one of the most intense stellar flares ever observed in ultraviolet light — more energetic than the most powerful flare ever recorded from our Sun.(NASA, ESA and D. Player (STScI))

Violent outbursts of seething gas from young red dwarf stars may make conditions uninhabitable on fledgling planets. In this artist’s rendering, an active, young red dwarf (right) is stripping the atmosphere from an orbiting planet (left). Scientists found that flares from the youngest red dwarfs they surveyed — approximately 40 million years old — are 100 to 1,000 times more energetic than when the stars are older. They also detected one of the most intense stellar flares ever observed in ultraviolet light — more energetic than the most powerful flare ever recorded from our Sun.(NASA, ESA and D. Player (STScI))

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NASA answers the question, “What is an ‘Exoplanet?”

 

Written by Calla Cofield
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.

The Milky Way, our own galaxy, stretches across the sky above the La Silla telescope in Chile. Hidden inside our own galaxy are trillions of planets, most waiting to be found. (ESO/S. Brunier)

The Milky Way, our own galaxy, stretches across the sky above the La Silla telescope in Chile. Hidden inside our own galaxy are trillions of planets, most waiting to be found. (ESO/S. Brunier)

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NASA’s Journey to Mars builds ground work for missions beyond our Solar System

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, 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.

A selfie taken by Curiosity the Mars rover in the Murray Buttes area. NASA’s Journey to Mars, a plan aimed at building on robotic missions to send humans to the red planet, could be helping lay the groundwork. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

A selfie taken by Curiosity the Mars rover in the Murray Buttes area. NASA’s Journey to Mars, a plan aimed at building on robotic missions to send humans to the red planet, could be helping lay the groundwork. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope captures image of rogue star speeding it’s way through Milky Way Galaxy

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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).

The red arc in this infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope is a giant shock wave, created by a speeding star known as Kappa Cassiopeiae. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The red arc in this infrared image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope is a giant shock wave, created by a speeding star known as Kappa Cassiopeiae. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope gets unique chance to hunt Earth-sized planets during Rare Alignment with Proxima Centauri

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, 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.

This plot shows the projected motion of the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri (green line) over the next decade, as plotted from Hubble Space Telescope observations. Because of parallax due to Earth's motion around the sun, the path appears scalloped.  (Credit:NASA, ESA, K. Sahu and J. Anderson (STScI), H. Bond (STScI and Pennsylvania State University), M. Dominik (University of St. Andrews), and Digitized Sky Survey (STScI/AURA/UKSTU/AAO))

This plot shows the projected motion of the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri (green line) over the next decade, as plotted from Hubble Space Telescope observations. Because of parallax due to Earth’s motion around the sun, the path appears scalloped. (Credit:NASA, ESA, K. Sahu and J. Anderson (STScI), H. Bond (STScI and Pennsylvania State University), M. Dominik (University of St. Andrews), and Digitized Sky Survey (STScI/AURA/UKSTU/AAO))

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NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) discovers closest Star System to Earth found in a Century

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.

WISE J104915.57-531906 is at the center of the larger image, which was taken by the NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). This is the closest star system discovered since 1916, and the third closest to our sun. It is 6.5 light-years away.

WISE J104915.57-531906 is at the center of the larger image, which was taken by the NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). This is the closest star system discovered since 1916, and the third closest to our sun. It is 6.5 light-years away.

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NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) finds fewer Brown Dwarfs than Predicted Close to Home

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.

This image shows our own back yard, astronomically speaking, from a vantage point about 30 light-years away from the sun. It highlights the population of tiny brown dwarfs recently discovered by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE (red circles). The image simulates actual positions of stars. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This image shows our own back yard, astronomically speaking, from a vantage point about 30 light-years away from the sun. It highlights the population of tiny brown dwarfs recently discovered by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE (red circles). The image simulates actual positions of stars. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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