NASA Selects 4 Concepts for Small Missions to Study Universe’s Secrets

As neutron stars collide, some of the debris blasts away in particle jets moving at nearly the speed of light, producing a brief burst of gamma rays. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/CI Lab)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has chosen four small-scale astrophysics missions for further concept development in a new program called Pioneers. Through small satellites and scientific balloons, these selections enable new platforms for exploring cosmic phenomena such as galaxy evolution, exoplanets, high-energy neutrinos, and neutron star mergers.

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What We Learned This Year from Space Station Science

NASA astronaut Anne McClain is pictured in the cupola holding biomedical gear for the Marrow experiment. The study measures fat changes in the bone marrow before and after exposure to microgravity. (Credits: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Dozens of experiments are going on at any given time aboard the International Space Station. Research conducted in 2020 is advancing our understanding in areas of study from Parkinson’s disease to combustion.

Space station research results published this year came from experiments performed and data collected during the past 20 years of continuous human habitation aboard the orbiting laboratory. Between October 1, 2019, and October 1, 2020, the station’s Program Research Office identified more than 300 scientific publications based on space station research.

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NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic to Complete Successful 2020

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.

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ABB and Nüvü to Deliver Exo-planet Cameras for NASA’s Roman Space Telescope

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

\MONTREAL (ABB PR) — A two-year contract awarded to ABB from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will see key ABB/Nüvü Camēras technology fly onboard the space telescope in 2025, on course to capture the first spaceborne images of planets outside our solar system.

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How Many Habitable Planets are Out There?

Kepler-186f was the first rocky planet to be found within the habitable zone — the region around the host star where the temperature is right for liquid water. This planet is also very close in size to Earth. Even though we may not find out what’s going on at the surface of this planet anytime soon, it’s a strong reminder of why new technologies are being developed that will enable scientists to get a closer look at distant worlds. (Credits: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (SETI Institute PR) – Thanks to new research using data from the Kepler space telescope, it’s estimated that there could be as many as 300 million potentially habitable planets in our galaxy. Some could even be pretty close, with several likely within 30 light-years of our Sun. The findings will be published in The Astronomical Journal, and research was a collaboration of scientists from NASA, the SETI Institute, and other organizations worldwide.

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Vaporised Metal Found in the Air of an Exoplanet

The top of the planet’s atmosphere is heated to a blazing 2,500 degrees Celsius (4,600 Fahrenheit), hot enough to boil some metals. [Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STSci)]

BERN, Switzerland (University of Bern PR) — An international team of researchers led by the National Centre of Competence in Research PlanetS of the University of Bern and the University of Geneva studied the atmosphere of the ultra-hot exoplanet WASP-121b. In it, they found a number of gaseous metals. The results are a next step in the search for potentially habitable worlds.

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First Results from Cheops: ESA’s Exoplanet Observer Reveals Extreme Alien World

Artist impression of exoplanet WASP-189b orbiting its host star. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s new exoplanet mission, Cheops, has found a nearby planetary system to contain one of the hottest and most extreme extra-solar planets known to date: WASP-189 b. The finding, the very first from the mission, demonstrates Cheops’ unique ability to shed light on the Universe around us by revealing the secrets of these alien worlds.

Launched in December 2019, Cheops (the Characterising Exoplanet Satellite) is designed to observe nearby stars known to host planets. By ultra-precisely measuring changes in the levels of light coming from these systems as the planets orbit their stars, Cheops can initially characterise these planets — and, in turn, increase our understanding of how they form and evolve.

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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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