Space Telescope Delivers the Goods: 2,200 Possible Planets

A newly published catalog reveals a fascinating variety of possible exoplanets detected by TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

By Pat Brennan
NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program

The news is out of this world: NASA’s TESS space telescope has captured evidence of more than 2,200 candidate planets orbiting bright, nearby stars, including hundreds of “smaller” planets – many possibly rocky worlds in some ways similar to Earth.

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On the Quest for Other Earths

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.

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NASA’s TESS Discovers New Worlds in a River of Young Stars

This illustration sketches out the main features of TOI 451, a triple-planet system located 400 light-years away in the constellation Eridanus. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

By Francis Reddy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, 

GREENBELT, Md. — Using observations from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), an international team of astronomers has discovered a trio of hot worlds larger than Earth orbiting a much younger version of our Sun called TOI 451. The system resides in the recently discovered Pisces-Eridanus stream, a collection of stars less than 3% the age of our solar system that stretches across one-third of the sky.

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ESA’s Exoplanet Watcher Cheops Reveals Unique Planetary System

Artist impression of the TOI-178 planetary system. (Credit: ESA)

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.

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The 7 Rocky TRAPPIST-1 Planets May Be Made of Similar Stuff

Measuring the mass and diameter of a planet reveals its density, which can give scientists clues about its composition. Scientists now know the density of the seven TRAPPIST-1 planets with a higher precision than any other planets in the universe, other than those in our own solar system. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Precise measurements reveal that the exoplanets have remarkably similar densities, which provides clues about their composition.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The red dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 is home to the largest group of roughly Earth-size planets ever found in a single stellar system. Located about 40 light-years away, these seven rocky siblings provide an example of the tremendous variety of planetary systems that likely fill the universe.

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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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