NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft Pauses Science Observations to Download Science Data

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

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Earlier this week, NASA’s Kepler team received an indication that the spacecraft fuel tank is running very low. NASA has placed the spacecraft in a hibernation-like state in preparation to download the science data collected in its latest observation campaign. Once the data has been downloaded, the expectation is to start observations for the next campaign with any remaining fuel.

(more…)

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches NASA’s TESS Spacecraft

TESS exoplanet satellite (Credit: NASA)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) on Wednesday evening. The spacecraft successfully separated from the booster’s second stage about 50 minutes after it was launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

TESS will use four cameras to search 85 percent of the sky for exoplanets orbiting other stars. The mission is a follow-on to the Kepler Space Telescope, which is completing a 9-year mission to survey the other 15 percent of the sky.

The on time launch occurred at 6:51 p.m. EDT. NASA reports the spacecraft’s solar arrays deployed on schedule, providing the satellite with power.

Falcon 9’s first stage successfully landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

NASA Prepares to Launch Next Mission to Search Sky for New Worlds

TESS exoplanet satellite (Credit: NASA)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is undergoing final preparations in Florida for its April 16 launch to find undiscovered worlds around nearby stars, providing targets where future studies will assess their capacity to harbor life.

(more…)

NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft Nearing the End as Fuel Runs Low

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

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Trailing Earth’s orbit at 94 million miles away, the Kepler space telescope has survived many potential knock-outs during its nine years in flight, from mechanical failures to being blasted by cosmic rays. At this rate, the hardy spacecraft may reach its finish line in a manner we will consider a wonderful success. With nary a gas station to be found in deep space, the spacecraft is going to run out of fuel. We expect to reach that moment within several months.

(more…)

NASA’s Kepler Mission Finds Record Number of Exo-Planets

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

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Kepler mission has verified 1,284 new planets – the single largest finding of planets to date.

“This announcement more than doubles the number of confirmed planets from Kepler,” said Ellen Stofan, chief scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This gives us hope that somewhere out there, around a star much like ours, we can eventually discover another Earth.”

(more…)

NASA Missions Have Their Eyes Peeled on Pluto

This image of Pluto from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) was received on July 8, and has been combined with lower-resolution color information from the Ralph instrument. (Credits: NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI)
This image of Pluto from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) was received on July 8, and has been combined with lower-resolution color information from the Ralph instrument. (Credits: NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — What’s icy, has “wobbly” potato-shaped moons, and is arguably the world’s favorite dwarf planet? The answer is Pluto, and NASA’s New Horizons is speeding towards the edge of our solar system for a July 14 flyby. It won’t be making observations alone; NASA’s fleet of observatories will be busy gathering data before and after to help piece together what we know about Pluto, and what features New Horizons data might help explain.

“NASA is aiming some of our most powerful space observatories at Pluto,” said Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division Director at NASA Headquarters, Washington. “With their unique capabilities combined, we will have a multi-faceted view of the Pluto system complementary to New Horizons data.”

(more…)

NASA’s Busy, Successful Year in Space & On Earth

Orion splashed down safely in the Pacific after its first test flight. (Credit: NASA)
Orion splashed down safely in the Pacific after its first test flight. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2014, NASA took significant steps on the agency’s journey to Mars — testing cutting-edge technologies and making scientific discoveries while studying our changing Earth and the infinite universe as the agency made progress on the next generation of air travel.

(more…)

NASA’s Year in Review: Amazing Space Science in 2013

This artist's concept shows the Voyager 1 spacecraft entering the space between stars. (Credit: NASA)
This artist’s concept shows the Voyager 1 spacecraft entering the space between stars. (Credit: NASA)

NASA Takes a Look Back at 2013

NASA science this year uncovered new knowledge about our home planet and the farthest reaches of the galaxy. Analysis showed the Voyager 1 spacecraft has entered interstellar space and, at 12 billion miles away, is the most distant man-made object ever created.
(more…)

NASA Discovers First Earth-Size Planets Beyond Our Solar System


MOFFET FIELD, Calif. — NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered the first Earth-size planets orbiting a sun-like star outside our solar system. The planets, called Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, are too close to their star to be in the so-called habitable zone where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface, but they are the smallest exoplanets ever confirmed around a star like our sun.

(more…)

Kepler Confirms First Planet in Habitable Zone Outside Solar System

This artist's conception illustrates Kepler-22b, a planet known to comfortably circle in the habitable zone of a sun-like star. Scientists do not yet know if the planet has a predominantly rocky, gaseous or liquid composition. It's possible that the world would have clouds in its atmosphere, as depicted here in the artist's interpretation. Image credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

NASA PR — NASA’s Kepler mission has confirmed its first planet in the “habitable zone,” the region where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface. Kepler also has discovered more than 1,000 new planet candidates, nearly doubling its previously known count. Ten of these candidates are near-Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of their host star. Candidates require follow-up observations to verify they are actual planets.

The newly confirmed planet, Kepler-22b, is the smallest yet found to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun. The planet is about 2.4 times the radius of Earth. Scientists don’t yet know if Kepler-22b has a predominantly rocky, gaseous or liquid composition, but its discovery is a step closer to finding Earth-like planets.

(more…)

Kepler Finds First Earth-Size Planet Candidates

Kepler-11 is a sun-like star around which six planets orbit. At times, two or more planets pass in front of the star at once, as shown in this artist's conception of a simultaneous transit of three planets observed by NASA's Kepler spacecraft on Aug. 26, 2010. Image credit: NASA/Tim Pyle

NASA PROGRAM UPDATE

NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered its first Earth-size planet candidates and its first candidates in the habitable zone, a region where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface. Five of the potential planets are near Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of smaller, cooler stars than our sun.

Candidates require follow-up observations to verify they are actual planets. Kepler also found six confirmed planets orbiting a sun-like star, Kepler-11. This is the largest group of transiting planets orbiting a single star yet discovered outside our solar system.

(more…)

Kepler Discovers Two-Planet System

This artist’s concept illustrates the two Saturn-sized planets discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission. The star system is oriented edge-on, as seen by Kepler, such that both planets cross in front, or transit, their star, named Kepler-9. This is the first star system found to have multiple transiting planets. Image credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

NASA MISSION UPDATE

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has discovered the first confirmed planetary system with more than one planet crossing in front of, or transiting, the same star.

The transit signatures of two distinct planets were seen in the data for the sun-like star designated Kepler-9. The planets were named Kepler-9b and 9c. The discovery incorporates seven months of observations of more than 156,000 stars as part of an ongoing search for Earth-sized planets outside our solar system. The findings will be published in Thursday’s issue of the journal Science.

(more…)

Kepler Finds Five Exoplanets

This artist's concept shows a cloudy Jupiter-like planet that orbits very close to its fiery hot star. NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC)
This artist's concept shows a cloudy Jupiter-like planet that orbits very close to its fiery hot star. NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC)

NASA MISSION UPDATE

NASA’s Kepler space telescope, designed to find Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of sun-like stars, has discovered its first five new exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system.

Kepler’s high sensitivity to both small and large planets enabled the discovery of the exoplanets, named Kepler 4b, 5b, 6b, 7b and 8b. The discoveries were announced Monday, Jan. 4, by the members of the Kepler science team during a news briefing at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington.

(more…)

Kepler Spots Exoplanet, Passes Key Test

Exoplanet orbiting close to its sun. Image credit: NASA
Exoplanet orbiting close to its sun. Image credit: NASA

NASA MISSION UPDATE

NASA’s new exoplanet-hunting Kepler space telescope has detected the atmosphere of a known giant gas planet, demonstrating the telescope’s extraordinary scientific capabilities. The discovery will be published Friday in the journal Science.

The find is based on a relatively short 10 days of test data collected before the official start of science operations. Kepler was launched March 6, 2009, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The observation demonstrates the extremely high precision of the measurements made by the telescope, even before its calibration and data analysis software were finished.

(more…)