Planet-Hunter CubeSat Images Los Angeles

This image of the greater Los Angeles area was taken on March 29, 2019 by ASTERIA, the Arcsecond Space Telescope Enabling Research in Astrophysics satellite. The Port of Long Beach is visible near the center of the image. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — A small satellite designed to hunt for new planets beyond the solar system recently looked down at Earth to capture an image of California’s “City of Stars.”

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Made in Space Selected for Two NASA SBIR Phase II Awards

Made in Space will continue to pursue the development of advanced glass alloys and 3-D manufactured structures for space interferometry missions under a pair of contract awards from NASA.

The space agency selected the additive-manufacturing company for awards under phase II of its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The contracts are worth a maximum of $750,000 apiece for up to two years.

“The next step in the industrialization of LEO is the formulation of base materials, such as specialty glasses, that can be refined into higher value products in microgravity,” the company said in a summary of its proposal. “The Glass Alloy Manufacturing Machine (GAMMA) is an experimental system designed to investigate how these materials form without the effects of gravity-induced flows and inform process improvements for commercial product development.”

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NIAC Award: Dual Use Exoplanet Telescope

Dual Use Exoplanet Telescope (Credit; Tom Ditto)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program
Phase I Award: Up to $125,000 for 9 Months

Dual Use Exoplanet Telescope (DUET)
Tom Ditto
3DeWitt LLC

The Dual Use Exoplanet Telescope (DUET) advances NASA’s discovery missions to find and characterize exo-planetary systems. The novel telescope design has the ability to detect exoplanets both indirectly (with radial velocity and astrometry techniques) and directly with advanced spectroscopy. DUET has an annulus gossamer membrane holographic primary objective that has four times the collection area and twice the diameter of the largest planned ground telescopes, yet its mass and stowage allow it to be delivered on a single lifter.

Unlike competing exoplanet finders, DUET does not require a coronagraph or star shade. It subtracts the parent star by taking advantage of the differences between the wavelengths of the star and its planets as a function of the distances between them. This is made possible by using a dual dispersion technique first studied by Newton in his famous prism experiment. In this telescope, wavelength is proportional to the distance of an exoplanet from its parent star.

The mission will result in a census of planets on half of all visible stars. In the “neighborhood” of earth, DUET will make spectrographic characterizations. DUET will deliver a positive signal for any water bearing planets using a Rayleigh scattering method in the near UV that in our solar system is unique to earth. Earth may be a “pale blue dot,” but in the near-UV it is luminescent. Such a signal for an exoplanet on an A, F or G class main sequence star would point to Earth 2.0.

2019 Phase 1 and Phase II Selections
2011-2019 Consolidated List

Europe’s Exoplanet Satellite Completes Final Tests

Artist impression of Cheops, the Characterising Exoplanet Satellite, with an exoplanet system in the background. (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

MADRID (ESA PR) — ESA’s Characterising Exoplanet Satellite, Cheops, was recently declared ready to fly after completing a series of final spacecraft tests.

Cheops will lift off as a secondary passenger on a Soyuz-Fregat rocket launching from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The satellite will be stored at the Airbus Defence and Space facility in Madrid for a few months before being shipped to the launch site, targeting the launch time slot between 15 October and 14 November in 2019.
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“Goldilocks” Stars May Be “Just Right” for Finding Habitable Worlds

This is an artist’s concept of a planet orbiting in the habitable zone of a K star. (Credits: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/Tim Pyle)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Scientists looking for signs of life beyond our solar system face major challenges, one of which is that there are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy alone to consider. To narrow the search, they must figure out: What kinds of stars are most likely to host habitable planets?

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Kepler’s Final Exoplanet Discovery Revealed

Artist’s impression of Kepler 1568-b and its host star. (Credit: Gabriel Perez Diaz Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias)

SYDNEY, Australia (University of Sydney PR) — Just months after its mission ended and a decade after its launch, glimmers of data detected by NASA’s Kepler space telescope in 2009 have been confirmed as evidence for a large, hot-Jupiter-like planet orbiting a star 2600 light years from Earth.

That 10-year mission to find distant planets around distant stars has shown that the universe is literally teeming with planets. There are more than 2300 confirmed exoplanets, ranging from huge gas giants to rocky worlds, perhaps not dissimilar to Earth.

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NASA’s TESS Rounds Up its First Planets, Snares Far-flung Supernovae

Credit: NASA

By Francis Reddy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has found three confirmed exoplanets, or worlds beyond our solar system, in its first three months of observations.

The mission’s sensitive cameras also captured 100 short-lived changes — most of them likely stellar outbursts — in the same region of the sky. They include six supernova explosions whose brightening light was recorded by TESS even before the outbursts were discovered by ground-based telescopes.

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Aerospace, JPL Develop Concept to View Distant Planets

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Nov. 19, 2018 – In a new development in the search for potentially habitable planets far beyond our solar system, JPL and Aerospace are conducting a study to further develop an innovative deep-space concept that relies on a solar gravity lens (SGL) to enable enhanced viewing of exoplanets.

The SGL would provide 100-billion optical magnification, allowing it to show details as small as 10 kilometers across – similar to being able to spot something the size of New York City on an exoplanet.

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NASA Sends Final Commands to Kepler Space Telescope

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

BOULDER, Colo. (NASA PR) — On Thursday evening, NASA’s Kepler space telescope received its final set of commands to disconnect communications with Earth. The “goodnight” commands finalize the spacecraft’s transition into retirement, which began on Oct. 30 with NASA’s announcement that Kepler had run out of fuel and could no longer conduct science.

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NASA Retires Kepler Space Telescope, Passes Planet-Hunting Torch

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

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — After nine years in deep space collecting data that indicate our sky to be filled with billions of hidden planets – more planets even than stars – NASA’s Kepler space telescope has run out of fuel needed for further science operations. NASA has decided to retire the spacecraft within its current, safe orbit, away from Earth. Kepler leaves a legacy of more than 2,600 planet discoveries from outside our solar system, many of which could be promising places for life.

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Two Record-Breaking NASA Deep Space Missions Coming to a Close

Artist’s concept of Dawn above Ceres around the time it was captured into orbit by the dwarf planet in early March. Since its arrival, the spacecraft turned around to point the blue glow of its ion engine in the opposite direction. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Two vastly different NASA spacecraft are about to run out of fuel: The Kepler spacecraft, which spent nine years in deep space collecting data that detected thousands of planets orbiting stars outside our solar system, and the Dawn spacecraft, which spent 11 years orbiting and studying the main asteroid belt’s two largest objects, Vesta and Ceres.

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Construction of ESA’s Exoplanet Hunter Plato Begins

Searching for exo-planetary systems. (Credit: ESA–C. Carreau)

BREMEN, Germany (ESA PR) — The construction of ESA’s Plato mission to find and study planets beyond our Solar System will be led by Germany’s OHB System AG as prime contractor, marking the start of the full industrial phase of the project.

The announcement was made today at the 69th International Astronautical Congress in Bremen, Germany, where the contract was formally signed.

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National Academies: NASA Should Lead Large Direct Imaging Mission to Study Earth-Like Exoplanets

WASHINGTON (National Academies PR) – To answer significant questions about planetary systems, such as whether our solar system is a rare phenomenon or if life exists on planets other than Earth, NASA should lead a large direct imaging mission – an advanced space telescope – capable of studying Earth-like exoplanets orbiting stars similar to the sun, says a new congressionally mandated report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The study of exoplanets – planets outside our solar system that orbit a star – has seen remarkable discoveries in the past decade. The report identifies two overarching goals in this field of science:

  • To understand the formation and evolution of planetary systems as products of star formation and characterize the diversity of their architectures, composition, and environments.
  • To learn enough about exoplanets to identify potentially habitable environments and search for scientific evidence of life on worlds orbiting other stars.

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NASA’s Webb Space Telescope to Inspect Atmospheres of Gas Giant Exoplanets

This is an artist’s impression of the Jupiter-size extrasolar planet, HD 189733b, being eclipsed by its parent star. Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have measured carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the planet’s atmosphere. The planet is a “hot Jupiter,” which is so close to its star that it completes an orbit in only 2.2 days. The planet is too hot for life as we know it. But under the right conditions, on a more Earth-like world, carbon dioxide can indicate the presence of extraterrestrial life. This observation demonstrates that chemical biotracers can be detected by space telescope observations.[Credits: ESA, NASA, M. Kornmesser (ESA/Hubble), and STScI]
GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — In April 2018, NASA launched the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Its main goal is to locate Earth-sized planets and larger “super-Earths” orbiting nearby stars for further study.  One of the most powerful tools that will examine the atmospheres of some planets that TESS discovers will be NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Since observing small exoplanets with thin atmospheres like Earth will be challenging for Webb, astronomers will target easier, gas giant exoplanets first.

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AGU & AAS Awarded Joint Grant from The Kavli Foundation to Foster Understanding of Exoplanets

Hot exoplanet (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO )

WASHINGTON, DC (AGU/AAS PR) ―The American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the American Astronomical Society (AAS) have received a grant from The Kavli Foundation to advance exoplanet science. This cooperative effort will help integrate the work of the AGU’s and AAS’s scientific communities through a joint steering committee, special sessions at both societies’ annual meetings, and topical conferences and workshops.

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