Carbon-rich Exoplanets Might be Made of Diamonds

llustration of a carbon-rich planet with diamond and silica as main minerals. Water can convert a carbide planet into a diamond-rich planet. In the interior, the main minerals would be diamond and silica (a layer with crystals in the illustration). The core (dark blue) might be iron-carbon alloy. (Credit: Shim/ASU/Vecteezy)

TEMPE, Ariz. (Arizona State University PR) — As missions like NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, TESS  and Kepler continue to provide insights into the properties of exoplanets (planets around other stars), scientists are increasingly able to piece together what these planets look like, what they are made of and if they could be habitable or even inhabited.

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Giada Arney, Research Space Scientist, Will Look for Life on Exoplanets

Giada Arney (Credits: NASA/T. Mickal)

By Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Highlighting Giada Arney also reminds us to recognize Women’s Equality Day, coming up on August 26.  Giada and all women working at Goddard, make our workforce diverse, strong and highly skilled.

Name: Giada Arney
Occupation: Research space scientist
Organization: Code 693, Planetary Systems Laboratory, Planetary Science Division, Science Directorate

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Fifty New Planets Confirmed in Machine Learning First

  • New machine learning algorithm designed by astronomers and computer scientists from University of Warwick confirms new exoplanets in telescope data
  • Sky surveys find thousands of planet candidates, and astronomers have to separate the true planets from fake ones
  • Algorithm was trained to distinguish between signs of real planets and false positives
  • New technique is faster than previous techniques, can be automated, and improved with further training

WARWICK, UK (University of Warwick PR) — Fifty potential planets have had their existence confirmed by a new machine learning algorithm developed by University of Warwick scientists.

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Unveiling Rogue Planets With NASA’s Roman Space Telescope

High-resolution illustration of the Roman spacecraft against a starry background. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

by Ashley Balzer
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — New simulations show that NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will be able to reveal myriad rogue planets – freely floating bodies that drift through our galaxy untethered to a star. Studying these island worlds will help us understand more about how planetary systems form, evolve, and break apart.

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Citizen Scientists Discover Dozens of New Cosmic Neighbors in NASA Data

In this artist’s rendering, the small white orb represents the white dwarf (a remnant of a long-dead Sun-like star), while the purple foreground object is the newly discovered brown dwarf companion, confirmed by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. This faint brown dwarf was previously overlooked until being spotted by citizen scientists working with Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, a NASA-funded citizen science project. (Credits: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/P. Marenfeld/Acknowledgement: William Pendrill)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — 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.

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NASA’s Planet Hunter Completes Its Primary Mission

TESS exoplanet satellite (Credit: NASA)

by Francis Reddy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Greenbelt, Md. — On July 4, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) finished its primary mission, imaging about 75% of the starry sky as part of a two-year-long survey. In capturing this giant mosaic, TESS has found 66 new exoplanets, or worlds beyond our solar system, as well as nearly 2,100 candidates astronomers are working to confirm.  

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Hubble Uses Earth as a Proxy for Identifying Oxygen on Potentially Habitable Planets Around Other Stars

This illustration shows the Hubble Space Telescope superimposed on an image of the Moon, seen during a lunar eclipse. Taking advantage of a total lunar eclipse in January 2019, astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have detected ozone in Earth’s atmosphere. This method serves as a proxy for how they will observe Earth-like planets transiting in front of other stars in search of life. Our planet’s perfect alignment with the Sun and Moon during a total lunar eclipse mimics the geometry of a transiting terrestrial planet with its star. In a new study, Hubble did not look at Earth directly. Instead, astronomers used the Moon as a mirror that reflects the sunlight transmitted through Earth’s atmosphere, which was then captured by Hubble. This is the first time a total lunar eclipse was captured at ultraviolet wavelengths and from a space telescope. (Credits: M. Kornmesser (ESA/Hubble), NASA, and ESA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Taking advantage of a total lunar eclipse, astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have detected Earth’s own brand of sunscreen – ozone – in our atmosphere. This method simulates how astronomers and astrobiology researchers will search for evidence of life beyond Earth by observing potential “biosignatures” on exoplanets  (planets around other stars).

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First Ever Image of a Multi-Planet System Around a Sun-like Star Captured by ESO Telescope

First ever image of a multi-planet system around a Sun-like star. (Credit: European Southern Observatory)

GARCHING BEI MUNCHEN, Germany (ESO PR) — The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT) has taken the first ever image of a young, Sun-like star accompanied by two giant exoplanets. Images of systems with multiple exoplanets are extremely rare, and — until now — astronomers had never directly observed more than one planet orbiting a star similar to the Sun. The observations can help astronomers understand how planets formed and evolved around our own Sun.

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NASA’s TESS Delivers New Insights Into an Ultrahot World

This illustration shows how planet KELT-9 b sees its host star. Over the course of a single orbit, the planet twice experiences cycles of heating and cooling caused by the star’s unusual pattern of surface temperatures. Between the star’s hot poles and cool equator, temperatures vary by about 1,500 F (800 C). This produces a “summer” when the planet faces a pole and a “winter” when it faces the cooler midsection. So every 36 hours, KELT-9 b experiences two summers and two winters. [Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Smith (USRA)]

By Francis Reddy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Greenbelt, Md. — Measurements from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) have enabled astronomers to greatly improve their understanding of the bizarre environment of KELT-9 b, one of the hottest planets known.

“The weirdness factor is high with KELT-9 b,” said John Ahlers, an astronomer at Universities Space Research Association in Columbia, Maryland, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It’s a giant planet in a very close, nearly polar orbit around a rapidly rotating star, and these features complicate our ability to understand the star and its effects on the planet.”

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A Mirror Image of Earth and Sun

This artist’s concept depicts select planetary discoveries made to date by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. (Credit: NASA/W. Stenzel)

The star Kepler-160 and its companion KOI-456.04 are more reminiscent of the Sun-Earth system than any previously known exoplanet-star pair

Göttingen, Germany (Max Planck Institute PR) — The star Kepler-160 is probably orbited by a planet less than twice the size of the Earth with a star-planet distance that could permit planetary surface temperatures conducive to life. The newly discovered exoplanet, which was found by a team of scientists led by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Göttingen is more than just another potentially habitable world.

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Texas Astronomer Uses 25-year-old Hubble Data to Confirm Planet Proxima Centauri c

Fritz Benedict is an emeritus Senior Research Scientist with The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory. (Credit: McDonald Observatory)

AUSTIN (McDonald Observatory PR) — Fritz Benedict has used data he took over two decades ago with Hubble Space Telescope to confirm the existence of another planet around the Sun’s nearest neighbor, Proxima Centauri, and to pin down the planet’s orbit and mass.

Benedict, an emeritus Senior Research Scientist with McDonald Observatory at The University of Texas at Austin, will present his findings today in a scientific session and then in a press conference at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

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JPL Mission Breaks Record for Smallest Satellite to Detect an Exoplanet

ASTERIA was deployed from the International Space Station on November 20, 2017. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

About the size of a briefcase, the CubeSat was built to test new technologies but exceeded expectations by spotting a planet outside our solar system.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Long before it was deployed into low-Earth orbit from the International Space Station in Nov. 2017, the tiny ASTERIA spacecraft had a big goal: to prove that a satellite roughly the size of a briefcase could perform some of the complex tasks much larger space observatories use to study exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system. A new paper soon to be published in the Astronomical Journal describes how ASTERIA (short for Arcsecond Space Telescope Enabling Research in Astrophysics) didn’t just demonstrate it could perform those tasks but went above and beyond, detecting the known exoplanet 55 Cancri e.

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Solar Gravity Lens Concept Receives $2 Million NASA Grant for Technology Maturation

Graphic depiction of Direct Multipixel Imaging and Spectroscopy of an Exoplanet with a Solar Gravity Lens Mission (Credit: S. Turyshev)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Apr. 20 2020 (The Aerospace Corporation PR) – The Solar Gravity Lens (SGL) concept to send a fleet of optical telescopes to image habitable planets far beyond our solar system received a $2 million grant by NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program

This two-year grant will support the further maturation of SGL technologies. The mission is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) with The Aerospace Corporation (Aerospace) as the mission architect.

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NASA $2M Grant Advances Study to Directly Image Exoplanets Light Years Away

Xplore’s Advanced Solar Sail for NASA’s Solar Gravity Lens Focus Mission. (Visualization by Bryan Versteeg, SpaceHabs.com)

Xplore’s advanced solar sail design will be the fastest spacecraft ever made

SEATTLE (Xplore PR) — Xplore Inc., a commercial space exploration company providing Space as a ServiceTM today announced they and their teammates won a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Phase III award for a two-year, $2M NASA grant to further mature the Solar Gravity Lens Focus (SGLF) architecture to image planets in orbit around distant stars starting with a Technology Demonstration Mission (TDM).

Dr. Slava G. Turyshev, a NIAC Fellow and Senior Research Scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is the Principal Investigator leading the SGLF mission which includes Xplore, JPL and The Aerospace Corporation. The SGLF mission study is only the third Phase III award granted in the NIAC program ever.

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Dedicated Team of Scientists Discover Habitable-Zone Earth-Size Planet in Kepler Data

An illustration of Kepler-1649c orbiting around its host red dwarf star. This newly discovered exoplanet is in its star’s habitable zone and is the closest to Earth in size and temperature found yet in Kepler’s data. Credits: NASA/Ames Research Center/ Daniel Rutter

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (SETI Institute PR) — In a new paper published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, co-authored by SETI Institute scientist Jeff Coughlin, astronomers using Kepler data have identified a planet nearly the same size of Earth that orbits in its star’s habitable zone, where liquid water could exist on its surface. 

This new world, Kepler-1649c, is 300 light-years away and orbits a star that is about one-fourth the size of our Sun.  Only 6% bigger than the Earth, it shares its sun with a planet much like Venus, Kepler-1649b, which was discovered three years ago. Although NASA’s Kepler space telescope was retired in 2018 when it ran out of fuel, scientists are still making discoveries as they continue to examine the signals Kepler detected. 

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