Showing posts from July, 2016

Forbidden planets: Understanding alien worlds once thought impossible

Source:   By Daniel Clery, Science Excerpt: ...The planet hunt accelerated with the launch of NASA’s Kepler spacecraft in 2009, and the 2500 worlds it has discovered added statistical heft to the study of exoplanets—and yet more confusion. Kepler found that the most common type of planet in the galaxy is something between the size of Earth and Neptune—a “super-Earth,” which has no parallel in our solar system and was thought to be almost impossible to make.  ...Other planetary systems looked nothing like our orderly solar system, challenging the well-worn theories that had been developed to explain it. ...The traditional model of how stars and their planets form dates back to the 18th century, when scientists proposed that a slowly rotating cloud of dust and gas could collapse under its own gravity. ...This scenario naturally produces a planetary system just like our own: small, rocky planets with thin atmospheres close to the star, a Jupiter-like gas giant just beyond the snowline

NASA’s Hubble Telescope Makes First Atmospheric Study of Earth-Sized Exoplanets

Source:   NASA RELEASE 16-076 Excerpt: Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have conducted the first search for atmospheres around temperate, Earth-sized planets beyond our solar system and found indications that increase the chances of habitability on two exoplanets. ...the exoplanets TRAPPIST-1b and TRAPPIST-1c, approximately 40 light-years away, are unlikely to have puffy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres usually found on gaseous worlds. ...The planets orbit a red dwarf star at least 500 million years old, in the constellation of Aquarius. They were discovered in late 2015 through a series of observations by the TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST), a Belgian robotic telescope located at ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) La Silla Observatory in Chile. TRAPPIST-1b completes a circuit around its red dwarf star in 1.5 days and TRAPPIST-1c in 2.4 days. The planets are between 20 and 100 times closer to their star than the Earth is to the sun. Becau

A Space Pioneer, 79, Is Ready to Track Juno for NASA

Source:   Kenneth Chang, The New York Times Excerpt: Susan G. Finley began working on rockets before NASA existed. And now at age 79, instead of watching fireworks on the Fourth of July, she will be at her post in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., waiting for confirmation that the latest of its space adventures has succeeded. Ms. Finley, an engineering specialist for the Deep Space Network of radio telescopes, will monitor radio signals, waiting for one critical beep — a signal sent from Juno , the solar-powered planetary explorer — that announces it has finally reached Jupiter , the largest planet in the solar system, after a five-year journey. [See also  NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Enters Into Orbit Around Jupiter  ]