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NASA To Announce Kepler Discovery At Media Briefing

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA will host a news briefing at 11 a.m. PDT, Thursday, Sept. 15, to announce a new discovery by the Kepler mission. The briefing will be held in the Syvertson auditorium, building N-201, at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. The event will be carried live on NASA Television and the agency’s website at

http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

Kepler is the first NASA mission capable of finding Earth-size planets in or near the “habitable zone,” the region in a planetary system where liquid water can exist on the surface of the orbiting planet. Although additional observations will be needed to achieve that milestone, Kepler is detecting planets and planet candidates with a wide range of sizes and orbital distances to help us better understand our place in the galaxy.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/sep/HQ_M11-192_Kepler_Briefing.html

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Star Blasts Planet With X-rays

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

New data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope suggest that high-energy radiation is evaporating about 5 million tons of matter from the planet every second. This result gives insight into the difficult survival path for some planets.

The planet, known as CoRoT-2b, has a mass about 3 times that of Jupiter (1000 times that of Earth) and orbits its parent star, CoRoT-2a at a distance roughly ten times the distance between Earth and the Moon.

The CoRoT-2 star and planet — so named because the French Space Agency’s Convection, Rotation and planetary Transits (CoRoT) satellite discovered them in 2008 — is a relatively nearby neighbor of the Solar System at a distance of 880 light years.

“This planet is being absolutely fried by its star,” said Sebastian Schroeter of the University of Hamburg in Germany. “What may be even stranger is that this planet may be affecting the behavior of the star that is blasting it.”

Full Story: http://chandra.si.edu/press/11_releases/press_091311.html

NASA’s Webb Telescope Completes Mirror-Coating Milestone

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has reached a major milestone in its development. The mirrors that will fly aboard the telescope have completed the coating process at Quantum Coating Inc. in Moorestown, N.J.

The telescope’s mirrors have been coated with a microscopically thin layer of gold, selected for its ability to properly reflect infrared light from the mirrors into the observatory’s science instruments. The coating allows the Webb telescope’s “infrared eyes” to observe extremely faint objects in infrared light. Webb’s mission is to observe the most distant objects in the universe.

“Finishing all mirror coatings on schedule is another major success story for the Webb telescope mirrors,” said Lee Feinberg, NASA Optical Telescope Element manager for the Webb telescope at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “These coatings easily meet their specifications, ensuring even more scientific discovery potential for the Webb telescope.”

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/features/webb-mirror-coating.html

Herschel Paints New Story of Galaxy Evolution

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Credits: ESA–AOES Medialab

Credits: ESA–AOES Medialab

ESA’s Herschel infrared space observatory has discovered that galaxies do not need to collide with each other to drive vigorous star birth. The finding overturns this long-held assumption and paints a more stately picture of how galaxies evolve.

The conclusion is based on Herschel’s observations of two patches of sky, each about a third of the size of the full Moon.

It’s like looking through a keyhole across the Universe – Herschel has seen more than a thousand galaxies at a variety of distances from the Earth, spanning 80% of the age of the cosmos.

These observations are unique because Herschel can study a wide range of infrared light and reveal a more complete picture of star birth than ever seen before.

Full Story: http://www.esa.int/export/esaSC/SEM2Y40UDSG_index_0.html

NASA Offers Shuttle Tiles And Space Food To Schools And Universities

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA is offering space shuttle heat shield tiles and dehydrated astronaut food to eligible schools and universities. The initiative is part of the agency’s efforts to preserve the Space Shuttle Program’s history and technology and inspire the next generation of space explorers, scientists and engineers.

The lightweight tiles protected the shuttles from extreme temperatures when the orbiters re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. The food, which was precooked or processed so that refrigeration is unnecessary, is ready to eat or could be prepared simply by adding water or by heating. Schools can register for a login ID and request a tile or food at:  http://gsaxcess.gov/NASAWel.htm

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/sep/HQ_11-296_Shuttle_Tiles_Space_Food.html

50 New Exoplanets Discovered, Including 16 New Super-Earths

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Astronomers using ESO’s world-leading exoplanet hunter HARPS have today announced a rich haul of more than 50 new exoplanets, including 16 super-Earths, one of which orbits at the edge of the habitable zone of its star. By studying the properties of all the HARPS planets found so far, the team has found that about 40% of stars similar to the Sun have at least one planet lighter than Saturn.

The HARPS spectrograph on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile is the world’s most successful planet finder [1]. The HARPS team, led by Michel Mayor (University of Geneva, Switzerland), today announced the discovery of more than 50 new exoplanets orbiting nearby stars, including sixteen super-Earths [2]. This is the largest number of such planets ever announced at one time[3]. The new findings are being presented at a conference on Extreme Solar Systems where 350 exoplanet experts are meeting in Wyoming, USA.

Full Story: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1134/

Astronomers Find Extreme Weather on an Alien World

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: Art by Jon Lomberg

Credit: Art by Jon Lomberg

A University of Toronto-led team of astronomers has observed extreme brightness changes on a nearby brown dwarf that may indicate a storm grander than any seen yet on a planet. Because old brown dwarfs and giant planets have similar atmospheres, this finding could shed new light on weather phenomena of extra-solar planets.

As part of a large survey of nearby brown dwarfs – objects that occupy the mass gap between dwarf stars and giant planets – the scientists used an infrared camera on the 2.5m telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile to capture repeated images of a brown dwarf dubbed 2MASS J21392676+0220226, or 2MASS 2139 for short, over several hours. In that short time span, they recorded the largest variations in brightness ever seen on a cool brown dwarf.

Full Story: http://www.artsci.utoronto.ca/main/media-releases/astronomers-find-extreme-weather-on-an-alien-world