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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Hubble Watches Comet ATLAS Disintegrate Into More Than Two Dozen Pieces

These two Hubble Space Telescope images of comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS), taken on April 20 (left) and April 23, 2020, provide the sharpest views yet of the breakup of the solid nucleus of the comet. Hubble’s eagle-eye view identifies as many as 30 separate fragments. Hubble distinguishes pieces that are roughly the size of a house. Before the breakup, the entire nucleus of the comet may have been the length of one or two football fields. Astronomers aren’t sure why this comet broke apart. The comet was approximately 91 million miles (146 million kilometers) from Earth when the images were taken. [Credits: NASA, ESA, STScI and D. Jewitt (UCLA)]

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — These two Hubble Space Telescope images of comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS), taken on April 20 and 23, 2020, provide the sharpest views yet of the breakup of the fragile comet.

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Hubble: 30 Years Unveiling the Universe

Video Caption: This month marks the 30th anniversary of the international Hubble Space Telescope.

Launched on 24 April 1990, and deployed from the Space Shuttle Discovery cargo bay a day later (25 April 1990), the telescope has given us a new perspective on the Universe.

The joint NASA/ESA mission has shown us distant galaxies and spectacular nebulae. It has revealed supermassive black holes and planets in distant solar systems; and has proved that the Universe is not only expanding, the expansion is accelerating.

Hubble’s mission has also been eventful. When it was first launched, a defect in the mirror meant it sent back blurry images. Since then, five servicing missions have enabled the telescope to be improved and upgraded. Today, it is still going strong.

Learn more: http://bit.ly/HubbleCelebratesIts30th…

Hubble Marks 30 Years in Space With Tapestry of Blazing Starbirth

A colorful image resembling a cosmic version of an undersea world teeming with stars is being released to commemorate the Hubble Space Telescope’s 30 years of viewing the wonders of space. In the Hubble portrait, the giant red nebula (NGC 2014) and its smaller blue neighbor (NGC 2020) are part of a vast star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, located 163,000 light-years away. The image is nicknamed the “Cosmic Reef,” because NGC 2014 resembles part of a coral reef floating in a vast sea of stars. Some of the stars in NGC 2014 are monsters. The nebula’s sparkling centerpiece is a grouping of bright, hefty stars, each 10 to 20 times more massive than our Sun. The seemingly isolated blue nebula at lower left (NGC 2020) has been created by a solitary mammoth star 200,000 times brighter than our Sun. The blue gas was ejected by the star through a series of eruptive events during which it lost part of its outer envelope of material. (Credits: NASA, ESA and STScI)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA is celebrating the Hubble Space Telescope’s 30 years of unlocking the beauty and mystery of space by unveiling a stunning new portrait of a firestorm of starbirth in a neighboring galaxy.

In this Hubble portrait, the giant red nebula (NGC 2014) and its smaller blue neighbor (NGC 2020) are part of a vast star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, located 163,000 light-years away. The image is nicknamed the “Cosmic Reef,” because it resembles an undersea world.

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NASA Leadership Assessing Mission Impacts of Coronavirus

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2020 (NASA PR) — To protect the health and safety of the NASA workforce as the nation responds to coronavirus (COVID-19), agency leadership recently completed the first assessment of work underway across all missions, projects, and programs. The goal was to identify tasks that can be done remotely by employees at home, mission-essential work that must be performed on-site, and on-site work that will be paused.

“We are going to take care of our people. That’s our first priority,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Technology allows us to do a lot of what we need to do remotely, but, where hands-on work is required, it is difficult or impossible to comply with CDC guidelines while processing spaceflight hardware, and where we can’t safely do that we’re going to have to suspend work and focus on the mission critical activities.” 

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NASA Approves Development of Universe-Studying, Planet-Finding Mission

Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (Credit: NASA)

Editor’s Note: NASA continues to develop WFIRST even as the Trump Administration continues to try to kill it. The administration’s FY 2021 budget request cancels the telescope, a proposal Congress rejected last year.

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) project has passed a critical programmatic and technical milestone, giving the mission the official green light to begin hardware development and testing.

The WFIRST space telescope will have a viewing area 100 times larger than that of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, which will enable it to detect faint infrared signals from across the cosmos while also generating enormous panoramas of the universe, revealing secrets of dark energy, discovering planets outside our solar system (exoplanets), and addressing a host of other astrophysics and planetary science topics.

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Scientists Find Additional Asteroid for Lucy Spacecraft to Visit

Conceptual image of the Lucy mission to the Trojan asteroids. (Credits: NASA/SwRI)

SAN ANTONIO, January 9, 2020 (SwRI PR) — Less than two years before launch, scientists associated with NASA’s Lucy mission, led by Southwest Research Institute, have discovered an additional small asteroid that will be visited by the Lucy spacecraft. Set to launch in 2021, its 12-year journey of almost 4 billion miles will explore the Trojan asteroids, a population of ancient small bodies that share an orbit with Jupiter.

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NASA’s Hubble Finds Water Vapor on Habitable-Zone Exoplanet for 1st Time

This artist’s impression shows the planet K2-18b, its host star and an accompanying planet in this system. K2-18b is now the only super-Earth exoplanet known to host both water and temperatures that could support life. UCL researchers used archive data from 2016 and 2017 captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and developed open-source algorithms to analyze the starlight filtered through K2-18b’s atmosphere. The results revealed the molecular signature of water vapor, also indicating the presence of hydrogen and helium in the planet’s atmosphere. (Credits: ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Its size and surface gravity are much larger than Earth’s, and its radiation environment may be hostile, but a distant planet called K2-18b has captured the interest of scientists all over the world. For the first time, researchers have detected water vapor signatures in the atmosphere of a planet beyond our solar system that resides in the “habitable zone,” the region around a star in which liquid water could potentially pool on the surface of a rocky planet.

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Hubble Watches Spun-Up Asteroid Coming Apart

This Hubble Space Telescope image reveals the gradual self-destruction of an asteroid, whose ejected dusty material has formed two long, thin, comet-like tails. The longer tail stretches more than 500,000 miles (800,000 kilometers) and is roughly 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) wide. The shorter tail is about a quarter as long. The streamers will eventually disperse into space. [Credits: NASA, ESA, K. Meech and J. Kleyna (University of Hawaii), and O. Hainaut (European Southern Observatory)]
BALTIMORE, Md. (NASA PR) — A small asteroid has been caught in the process of spinning so fast it’s throwing off material, according to new data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories.

Images from Hubble show two narrow, comet-like tails of dusty debris streaming from the asteroid (6478) Gault. Each tail represents an episode in which the asteroid gently shed its material — key evidence that Gault is beginning to come apart.

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GAO: NASA has Regressed on Controlling Costs, Schedule Slips

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has regressed in its efforts to control cost growth and schedule delays on its various high-risk projects, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

“Following several years of continuing a generally positive trend of limiting cost growth and schedule delays for its portfolio of major projects, we found that NASA’s average launch delay increased from 7 to 12 months between May 2017 and May 2018,” the report stated. “Further, the overall development cost growth increased from 15.6 percent to at least 18.8 percent over the same time period.”

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NASA Receives Significant Funding Increase with $21.5 Billion Budget

The Lunar Gateway (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has received a $21.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2019, which is $736.86 million above FY 2018 and $1.6 billion above the total requested by the Trump Administration.

The funding, which came more than four months into the fiscal year,  was included in an appropriations bill signed by President Donald Trump on Friday. NASA’s budget has been on an upward trajectory over the last few years. In FY 2018, the space agency received an $1.64 billion increase over the previous year.

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Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 to Resume Operations

Hubble Space Telescope (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has moved closer to conducting science operations again with the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 instrument, which suspended operations on Tuesday, Jan. 8. Today, Jan. 15, the instrument was brought back to its operations mode.

Shortly after noon EST on Jan. 8, software installed on the Wide Field Camera 3 detected that some voltage levels within the instrument were out of the predefined range. The instrument autonomously suspended its operations as a safety precaution. Upon further investigation, the voltage levels appeared to be within normal range, yet the engineering data within the telemetry circuits for those voltage levels were not accurate. In addition, all other telemetry within those circuits also contained erroneous values indicating that this was a telemetry issue and not a power supply issue.

After resetting the telemetry circuits and associated boards, additional engineering data were collected and the instrument was brought back to operations. All values were normal. Additional calibration and tests will be run over the next 48 to 72 hours to ensure that the instrument is operating properly. Further investigation using both the new and the previously collected engineering data will be conducted to determine why those data values were originally incorrect.

Assuming that all tests work as planned, it is expected that the Wide Field Camera 3 will start to collect science images again by the end of the week.

The Wide Field Camera 3 was installed during the last servicing mission to Hubble back in 2009.  Over 2,000 peer-reviewed published papers have been produced from its data. Hubble itself is in its 29th year of operations, well surpassing its original 15-year lifetime.

Hubble operations, like other satellite operations, are excepted activities as defined in the NASA furlough/shutdown plan. The current partial government shutdown does not affect its flight operations.

For more information about Hubble, visit:

www.nasa.gov/hubble











Hubble Paved the Way for the New Horizons Mission to Pluto and Ultima Thule

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope discovered the next target for the New Horizons spacecraft — 2014 MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule — in June 2014. Seen in these five overlaid images, the object resides more than one billion miles beyond Pluto in the frigid outer reaches of the Kuiper Belt. New Horizons will reach Ultima Thule on New Year’s Day 2019. (Credit: NASA/STScI/JHUAPL/SwRI)

LAUREL, Md. (JHUAPL PR) — Years before a team of researchers proposed a mission called New Horizons to explore the dwarf planet Pluto, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope had already made initial observations of the world at the dim outer fringes of our celestial neighborhood. Over many years, Hubble’s pioneering observations repeatedly accomplished what ground-based telescopes could not — imaging features on Pluto’s surface, finding new Plutonian moons, and tracking down a destination to visit after Pluto — an even tinier, icy object in a vast region of small worlds beyond the orbit of Neptune called the Kuiper Belt.

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