Cheops Reveals a Rugby Ball-shaped Exoplanet

Artist impression of planet WASP-103b and its host star. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA’s exoplanet mission Cheops has revealed that an exoplanet orbiting its host star within a day has a deformed shape more like that of a rugby ball than a sphere. This is the first time that the deformation of an exoplanet has been detected, offering new insights into the internal structure of these star-hugging planets.

The planet, known as WASP-103b is located in the constellation of Hercules. It has been deformed by the strong tidal forces between the planet and its host star WASP-103, which is about 200 degrees hotter and 1.7 times larger than the Sun.

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Hubble Space Telescope Passes 1-Billion Second Mark

Hubble Space Telescope (Credit: NASA)

NASA Mission Update

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — On Jan. 1, 2022, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope officially passed the one-billion second mark.

Hubble was deployed from the Space Shuttle Discovery’s cargo bay on April 25, 1990, making it one-billion seconds (over 31 years) since Hubble began operating. For more than three decades, Hubble has provided us with groundbreaking scientific discoveries and iconic images of space.

Hubble’s first one-billion seconds included five astronaut servicing missions to replace and repair components of the telescope, and more than 1.5 million scientific observations and counting! We can only imagine what discoveries the next one-billion seconds will bring as new telescopes like the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope and the future Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope build upon Hubble’s discoveries and work together with Hubble to expand our understanding of the universe.

NASA’s 2021 Achievements Included Mars Landing, First Flight, Artemis, More

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2021, NASA completed its busiest year of development yet in low-Earth orbit, made history on Mars, continued to make progress on its Artemis plans for the Moon, tested new technologies for a supersonic aircraft, finalized launch preparations for the next-generation space telescope, and much more – all while safely operating during a pandemic and welcoming new leadership under the Biden-Harris Administration.

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Hubble Finds Evidence of Persistent Water Vapor in One Hemisphere of Europa

This photograph of the Jovian moon Europa was taken in June 1997 at a range of 776,700 miles by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft. Slightly smaller than Earth’s moon, Europa has a very smooth surface and the solid ice crust has the appearance of a cracked eggshell. The interior has a global ocean with more water than found on Earth. It could possibly harbor life as we know it. Hubble Space Telescope observations of Europa have revealed the presence of persistent water vapor in its very tenuous atmosphere. Hubble observations, spanning 1999 to 2015, find that water vapor is constantly being replenished throughout one hemisphere of the moon. This is a different finding from Hubble’s 2013 observations that found localized water vapor from geysers venting from its subsurface ocean. This water vapor comes from a different process entirely. Sunlight causes the surface ice to sublimate, transitioning directly into gas. This color composite Galileo view combines violet, green, and infrared images. The view of the moon is shown in natural color (left) and in enhanced color designed to bring out subtle color differences in the surface (right). The bright white and bluish part of Europa’s surface is composed mostly of water ice, with very few non-ice materials. Long, dark lines are fractures in the crust, some of which are more than 1,850 miles long. The Galileo mission ended on Sept. 21, 2003, when the spacecraft was intentionally commanded to dive into Jupiter’s atmosphere, where it was destroyed. However, to this day scientists continue to study the data it collected. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California managed the Galileo mission for NASA’s Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. JPL is an operating division of California Institute of Technology (Caltech). This image and other images and data received from Galileo are posted on the Galileo mission home page. Background information and educational context are also available for the images. (Credits: NASA, NASA-JPL, University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope observations of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa have revealed the presence of persistent water vapor – but, mysteriously, only in one hemisphere.

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EPSC 2021: Cloud Spotting on a Distant Exoplanet

Some of the elements making WASP-127b unique, compared with the planets of our Solar System. (Credits: David Ehrenreich/Université de Genève, Romain Allart/Université de Montréal)

STRASBOURG, France (Europlanet Society PR) — An international team of astronomers has not only detected clouds on the distant exoplanet WASP-127b, but also measured their altitude with unprecedented precision. A presentation by Dr Romain Allart at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021 shows how, by combining data from a space- and a ground-based telescope, the team has been able to reveal the upper structure of the planet’s atmosphere. This paves the way for similar studies of many other faraway worlds.

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NASA Successfully Switches to Backup Hardware on Hubble Space Telescope

Hubble Space Telescope (Credit: NASA)

BALTIMORE (NASA PR) — NASA has successfully switched to backup hardware on the Hubble Space Telescope, including powering on the backup payload computer, on July 15. The switch was performed to compensate for a problem with the original payload computer that occurred on June 13 when the computer halted, suspending science data collection.

The switch included bringing online the backup Power Control Unit (PCU) and the backup Command Unit/Science Data Formatter (CU/SDF) on the other side of the Science Instrument and Command & Data Handling (SI C&DH) unit. The PCU distributes power to the SI C&DH components, and the CU/SDF sends and formats commands and data. In addition, other pieces of hardware onboard Hubble were switched to their alternate interfaces to connect to this backup side of the SI C&DH. Once these steps were completed, the backup payload computer on this same unit was turned on and loaded with flight software and brought up to normal operations mode. 

The Hubble team is now monitoring the hardware to ensure that everything is working properly. The team has also started the process for recovering the science instruments out of their safe mode configuration. This activity is expected to take more than a day as the team runs various procedures and ensures the instruments are at stable temperatures. The team will then conduct some initial calibration of the instruments before resuming normal science operations.

NASA Science Budget Request Fact Sheet

Europa Clipper in orbit around Europa. (Credit: NASA)

NASA FACT SHEET
FY 2022 Budget Request
Science
($ Millions)

NASA’s Science budget, managed by the Science Mission Directorate, includes five major science areas as well as the James Webb Space Telescope which is funded separately from Astrophysics. These areas include:

  • Earth Science to enhance understanding of Earth systems and to observe the effects of climate change. The Budget invests heavily in climate and applications research, begins formulation of the first four Designated Observable missions, and initiates the Earth System Explorers program (consistent with Decadal Survey recommendations). The Budget also supports the ongoing development of the Earth System Observatory including PACE, CLARREO Pathfinder, NISAR, SWOT, and Landsat 9.
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Comet Makes a Pit Stop Near Jupiter’s Asteroids

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope snapped this image of the young comet P/2019 LD2 as it orbits near Jupiter’s captured ancient asteroids, which are called Trojans. The Hubble view reveals a 400,000-mile-long tail of dust and gas flowing from the wayward comet’s bright solid nucleus. (Credit: NASA/ESA/J. Olmsted/STScI)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — For the first time, a wayward comet-like object has been spotted near the family of ancient asteroids.

After traveling several billion miles toward the Sun, a wayward young comet-like object orbiting among the giant planets has found a temporary parking place along the way. The object has settled near a family of captured ancient asteroids, called Trojans, that are orbiting the Sun alongside Jupiter. This is the first time a comet-like object has been spotted near the Trojan population.

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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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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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Hubble Snaps Close-Up of Celebrity Comet NEOWISE

This animation displays the rotation of comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) shortly after its pass by the Sun. The two images were taken three hours apart on Aug. 8, 2020, by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Two jets emerging from the comet’s nucleus are being fanned out by the comet’s rotation. [Credits: NASA, ESA, STScI, and Q. Zhang (Caltech)]

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA Hubble Space Telescope images of comet NEOWISE, taken on Aug. 8, zero in on the visitor’s coma, the gossamer shell of gas and dust that surrounds its nucleus as it is heated by the Sun. This is the first time Hubble has photographed a comet of this brightness at such resolution after this close of a pass by the Sun.

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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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Texas Astronomer Uses 25-year-old Hubble Data to Confirm Planet Proxima Centauri c

Fritz Benedict is an emeritus Senior Research Scientist with The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory. (Credit: McDonald Observatory)

AUSTIN (McDonald Observatory PR) — Fritz Benedict has used data he took over two decades ago with Hubble Space Telescope to confirm the existence of another planet around the Sun’s nearest neighbor, Proxima Centauri, and to pin down the planet’s orbit and mass.

Benedict, an emeritus Senior Research Scientist with McDonald Observatory at The University of Texas at Austin, will present his findings today in a scientific session and then in a press conference at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

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A Tale of Two Telescopes: WFIRST and Hubble

This famous Hubble Ultra Deep Field image captured the cosmos in three different types of light: infrared, visible and ultraviolet. While WFIRST will be tuned to see infrared light exclusively, its much wider field of view will enable larger surveys that would take hundreds or even thousands of years for Hubble to complete. [Credit: NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz, M. Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University) and Z. Levay (STScI)]

by Ashley Balzer
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), planned for launch in the mid-2020s, will create enormous cosmic panoramas. Using them, astronomers will explore everything from our solar system to the edge of the observable universe, including planets throughout our galaxy and the nature of dark energy.

Though it’s often compared to the Hubble Space Telescope, which turns 30 years old this week,  WFIRST  will study the cosmos in a unique and complementary way.

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