An international research team with members from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) has developed a new method for directly imaging smaller planets in the habitable zone of a neighbouring star system. This opens up new possibilities in the search for extra-terrestrial life.
by Felix Wuersten
ZURICH — In the search for planets capable of sustaining life, an international research team with members from ETH has taken a significant step forward. As the researchers reported recently in the journal Nature Communications, they found signs of a Neptune-sized planet in the Alpha Centauri star system, a mere 4.4 light years away from Earth. This exoplanet is located in a zone that may offer suitable conditions for life. The team was able to collect data with unprecedented sensitivity, thus registering even very weak signals.
PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s exoplanet mission Cheops has revealed a unique planetary system consisting of six exoplanets, five of which are locked in a rare rhythmic dance as they orbit their central star. The sizes and masses of the planets, however, don’t follow such an orderly pattern. This finding challenges current theories of planet formation.
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.
The European Space Agency’s 2020 Asteroid Day virtual programme series will feature scientists, astronomers, and astronauts reaching out to audiences everywhere. Each will be in a different language and broadcast on ADTV in the week leading to Asteroid Day. Dates to be announced soon.
30 June | Asteroid Day Live From Luxembourg
Asteroid Day LIVE is back! This year we come to you with experts calling in from around the world to discuss the latest missions, discoveries, opportunities and challenges that asteroids present. This year ADLIVE will premiere on Asteroid Day (30 June) – exact times, topics, and guest line-up to be announced soon.
PARIS (ESA PR) — Asteroid 2006 QV89, a small object 20 to 50 metres in diameter, was in the news lately because of a very small, 1-in-7000 chance of impact with Earth on 9 September 2019.
In the first known case of ruling out an asteroid impact through a
‘non-detection’, ESA and the European Southern Observatory have
concluded that asteroid 2006 QV89 is not on a collision course this year – and the chance of any future impact is extremely remote.
ESO has signed an agreement with the Breakthrough Initiatives to adapt the Very Large Telescope instrumentation in Chile to conduct a search for planets in the nearby star system Alpha Centauri. Such planets could be the targets for an eventual launch of miniature space probes by the Breakthrough Starshot initiative.
ESO, represented by the Director General, Tim de Zeeuw, has signed an agreement with the Breakthrough Initiatives, represented by Pete Worden, Chairman of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation and Executive Director of the Breakthrough Initiatives. The agreement provides funds for the VISIR (VLT Imager and Spectrometer for mid-Infrared) instrument, mounted at ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) to be modified in order to greatly enhance its ability to search for potentially habitable planets around Alpha Centauri, the closest stellar system to the Earth. The agreement also provides for telescope time to allow a careful search programme to be conducted in 2019.
ESO PR — ESO’s New Technology Telescope (NTT) has been used to find the first evidence that asteroids can have a highly varied internal structure. By making exquisitely precise measurements astronomers have found that different parts of the asteroid Itokawa have different densities. As well as revealing secrets about the asteroid’s formation, finding out what lies below the surface of asteroids may also shed light on what happens when bodies collide in the Solar System, and provide clues about how planets form.