Columbia Astronomers Find First Compelling Evidence for a Moon Outside Our Solar System

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

New exomoon candidate has been observed around a star some 8,000 light-years away from Earth and is believed to be around the size of Neptune

New York, NY, October 3, 2018 (Columbia University PR) – A pair of Columbia University astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Kepler Space Telescope have assembled compelling evidence for the existence of a moon orbiting a gas-giant planet 8,000 light-years away.
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NASA’s TESS Shares First Science Image in Hunt to Find New Worlds

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) took this snapshot of the Large Magellanic Cloud (right) and the bright star R Doradus (left) with just a single detector of one of its cameras on Tuesday, Aug. 7. The frame is part of a swath of the southern sky TESS captured in its “first light” science image as part of its initial round of data collection. (Credits: NASA/MIT/TESS)

By Jeanette Kazmierczak
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA’s newest planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), is now providing valuable data to help scientists discover and study exciting new exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system. Part of the data from TESS’ initial science orbit includes a detailed picture of the southern sky taken with all four of the spacecraft’s wide-field cameras. This “first light” science image captures a wealth of stars and other objects, including systems previously known to have exoplanets.

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NASA’s TESS Spacecraft Starts Science Operations

TESS exoplanet satellite (Credit: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite has started its search for planets around nearby stars, officially beginning science operations on July 25, 2018. TESS is expected to transmit its first series of science data back to Earth in August, and thereafter periodically every 13.5 days, once per orbit, as the spacecraft makes it closest approach to Earth. The TESS Science Team will begin searching the data for new planets immediately after the first series arrives.

“I’m thrilled that our new planet hunter mission is ready to start scouring our solar system’s neighborhood for new worlds,” said Paul Hertz, NASA Astrophysics division director at Headquarters, Washington. “Now that we know there are more planets than stars in our universe, I look forward to the strange, fantastic worlds we’re bound to discover.”

TESS is NASA’s latest satellite to search for planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets. The mission will spend the next two years monitoring the nearest and brightest stars for periodic dips in their light. These events, called transits, suggest that a planet may be passing in front of its star. TESS is expected to find thousands of planets using this method, some of which could potentially support life.

TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Dr. George Ricker of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research serves as principal investigator for the mission.

Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.

For the latest updates on TESS, visit nasa.gov/tess.

NASA’s Next Exoplanet Satellite Arrives at NASA Kennedy

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite arrives at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where it will undergo final preparations for launch. (Credits: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA’s next planet-hunting mission has arrived in Florida to begin preparations for launch. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station nearby NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than April 16, pending range approval.

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TRAPPIST-1 System Planets Potentially Habitable

The TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultra-cool dwarf, has seven Earth-size planets orbiting it. This artist’s concept appeared on the cover of the journal Nature on Feb. 23, 2017. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Tucson, Ariz. (Planetary Science Institute PR) — Two exoplanets in the TRAPPIST-1 system have been identified as most likely to be habitable, a paper by PSI Senior Scientist Amy Barr says.

The TRAPPIST-1 system has been of great interest to observers and planetary scientists because it seems to contain seven planets that are all roughly Earth-sized, Barr and co-authors Vera Dobos and Laszlo L. Kiss said in “Interior Structures and Tidal Heating in the TRAPPIST-1 Planets” that appears in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

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SOFIA Confirms Nearby Planetary System is Similar to Our Own

Artist’s illustration of the Epsilon Eridani system showing Epsilon Eridani b. In the right foreground, a Jupiter-mass planet is shown orbiting its parent star at the outside edge of an asteroid belt. In the background can be seen another narrow asteroid or comet belt plus an outermost belt similar in size to our solar system’s Kuiper Belt. The similarity of the structure of the Epsilon Eridani system to our solar system is remarkable, although Epsilon Eridani is much younger than our sun. SOFIA observations confirmed the existence of the asteroid belt adjacent to the orbit of the Jovian planet. (Credits: NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

PALMDALE, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s flying observatory, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, recently completed a detailed study of a nearby planetary system. The investigations confirmed that this nearby planetary system has an architecture remarkably similar to that of our solar system.

Located 10.5 light-years away in the southern hemisphere of the constellation Eridanus, the star Epsilon Eridani, eps Eri for short, is the closest planetary system around a star similar to the early sun. It is a prime location to research how planets form around stars like our sun, and is also the storied location of the Babylon 5 space station in the science fictional television series of the same name.

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Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star

Artist's impression of the planet orbiting Proxima Centauri. (Credit: ESO)
Artist’s impression of the planet orbiting Proxima Centauri. (Credit: ESO)

Pale Red Dot campaign reveals Earth-mass world in orbit around Proxima Centauri

GARCHING BEI MUNCHEN, Germany (ESO PR) — Astronomers using ESO telescopes and other facilities have found clear evidence of a planet orbiting the closest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri. The long-sought world, designated Proxima b, orbits its cool red parent star every 11 days and has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. This rocky world is a little more massive than the Earth and is the closest exoplanet to us — and it may also be the closest possible abode for life outside the Solar System. A paper describing this milestone finding will be published in the journal Nature on 25 August 2016.

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NASA’s Kepler Mission Finds Record Number of Exo-Planets

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

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Kepler mission has verified 1,284 new planets – the single largest finding of planets to date.

“This announcement more than doubles the number of confirmed planets from Kepler,” said Ellen Stofan, chief scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This gives us hope that somewhere out there, around a star much like ours, we can eventually discover another Earth.”

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Uwingu Announces Winner of Alpha Centauri Planet Naming Contest

uwingu_artworkBoulder, Colorado (Uwingu PR) — Space company UwinguTM announced the winner of its public engagement contest to solicit and vote on a popular name for the only known planet orbiting the nearest star to the Sun, Alpha Centauri.

The winning name from Uwingu’s competition to select a name for the planet is “Albertus Alauda”. This nomination was entered into Uwingu’s public planet name nomination database last November by Jason Lark, in honor of his late grandfather, Albert Lark. In the citation entered into Uwingu’s database, Lark said, “His name in Latin means Noble or Bright and to praise or extol. I think this is an apt description as my Grandfather was a noble man and bright of character and in this nomination I wish to honour (extol) him.”

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Researchers Find Potentially Habitable Exoplanet

NASA/NSF PRESS RELEASE

A team of planet hunters from the University of California (UC) Santa Cruz, and the Carnegie Institution of Washington has announced the discovery of a planet with three times the mass of Earth orbiting a nearby star at a distance that places it squarely in the middle of the star’s “habitable zone.”

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Kepler Discovers Two-Planet System

This artist’s concept illustrates the two Saturn-sized planets discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission. The star system is oriented edge-on, as seen by Kepler, such that both planets cross in front, or transit, their star, named Kepler-9. This is the first star system found to have multiple transiting planets. Image credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

NASA MISSION UPDATE

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has discovered the first confirmed planetary system with more than one planet crossing in front of, or transiting, the same star.

The transit signatures of two distinct planets were seen in the data for the sun-like star designated Kepler-9. The planets were named Kepler-9b and 9c. The discovery incorporates seven months of observations of more than 156,000 stars as part of an ongoing search for Earth-sized planets outside our solar system. The findings will be published in Thursday’s issue of the journal Science.

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