Results tagged “extrasolar”

Transmission spectroscopy of exoplanets is a tool to characterize rocky planets and explore their habitability. Using the Earth itself as a proxy, we model the atmospheric cross section as a function of wavelength, and show the effect of each atmospheric species, Rayleigh scattering and refraction from 115 to 1000nm.

Red dwarf stars are the commonest type of stars, making up about 75% of the stars in our galaxy. They are much smaller and much less massive than our Sun and for that reason a lot dimmer. If planets are found around these stars, then given the number of red dwarfs, life could then be commonplace.

A new study that calculates the influence of cloud behavior on climate doubles the number of potentially habitable planets orbiting red dwarfs, the most common type of stars in the universe. This finding means that in the Milky Way galaxy alone, 60 billion planets may be orbiting red dwarf stars in the habitable zone.

One of the most profound questions about the newly discovered class of low-density super-Earths is whether these exoplanets are predominately H2-dominated mini-Neptunes or volatile-rich worlds with gas envelopes dominated by H2O, CO2, CO, CH4, or N2.

One Star, Three Habitable Planets

A team of astronomers, including Carnegie's Paul Butler, has combined new observations with existing data to reveal a solar system packed full of planets. The star Gliese 667C is orbited by between five and seven planets, the maximum number that could fit in stable, close orbits. A record-breaking three of these planets are super-Earths found in the so-called habitable zone around the star -- the zone where liquid water could exist. This makes them good candidates for the search for life.

As part of an international team of exoplanets hunters, astronomers at the University of Arizona are developing a technique to detect faint dust clouds around other stars, many of which might hide Earth-like planets.

Astronomer John Gizis of the University of Delaware, working with data obtained by the Kepler mission, is studying a highly unusual dwarf star and its powerful flares that may hold clues to the likelihood of life on other planets as well as to the behavior of our Sun.

New Kepler Mission Data Delivered

On May 28, 2013, NASA's Kepler mission delivered new data to the NASA Exoplanet Archive. We sat down with Michael Haas, Kepler science office director at NASA Ames Research Center, to find out more.

For centuries, humans have pondered what life on other planets beyond our solar system might be like. With the launch of the Kepler spacecraft in 2009 we now have evidence for the widespread existence of such planets.

Kepler Mission Manager Update

Following the apparent failure of reaction wheel 4 on May 11, 2013, engineers were successful at transitioning the spacecraft from a Thruster-Controlled Safe Mode to Point Rest State at approximately 3:30 p.m. PDT on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. The spacecraft has remained safe and stable in this attitude and is no longer considered to be in a critical situation.

Detecting alien worlds presents a significant challenge since they are small, faint, and close to their stars. The two most prolific techniques for finding exoplanets are radial velocity (looking for wobbling stars) and transits (looking for dimming stars). A team at Tel Aviv University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) has just discovered an exoplanet using a new method that relies on Einstein's special theory of relativity.

A Comparative Climatology Symposium was held at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC on Tuesday, May 7. The symposium focused on new approaches to climate research by highlighting the similarities and contrasts between the environments of the terrestrial planets Venus, Earth, Mars, and Saturn's smoggy moon Titan. The symposium also included discussions about exoplanets, the Sun, and past, present and future space missions.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found the building blocks for Earth-sized planets in an unlikely place: the atmospheres of a pair of burned-out stars called white dwarfs.

The purpose of the hearing is to review the recent discovery of three super-Earth sized planets by the NASA's Kepler space telescope. The hearing will also assess the state of exoplanet surveying, characterization, and research; NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program; National Science Foundation's Division of Astronomical Science; as well as coordination within the government and with external partners. NASA and NSF both contribute to the search for exoplanets.

Spitzer Studies Hot Jupiters

Our galaxy is teeming with a wild variety of planets. In addition to our solar system's eight near-and-dear planets, there are more than 800 so-called exoplanets known to circle stars beyond our sun. One of the first "species" of exoplanets to be discovered is the hot Jupiters, also known as roasters. These are gas giants like Jupiters, but they orbit closely to their stars, blistering under the heat.

Observational surveys for extrasolar planets probe the diverse outcomes of planet formation and evolution. These surveys measure the frequency of planets with different masses, sizes, orbital characteristics, and host star properties. Small planets between the sizes of Earth and Neptune substantially outnumber Jupiter-sized planets.

An international team of astronomers, including Alexandre Santerne of the EXOEarths team at CAUP, has identified and characterized two new exoplanets thanks to combined observations from the Kepler space telescope plus the SOPHIE and HARPS-N spectrographs.

A University of Washington astronomer, funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award, has discovered perhaps the smallest super-Earth planet in its host star habitable zone.

Relative sizes of Kepler habitable zone planets discovered as of 2013 April 18.
Left to right: Kepler-22b, Kepler-69c, Kepler-62e, Kepler-62f, and Earth (except for Earth, these are artists' renditions). Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech.

New Earth-like Planets Found

A team of scientists, including Carnegie's Alan Boss, has discovered two Earth-like planets in the habitable orbit of a Sun-like star. Their work is published in Science Express.

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