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NASA’s Kepler Announces 11 Planetary Systems Hosting 26 Planets

January 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Image credit: NASA Ames/Dan Fabrycky, University of California, Santa Cruz

Image credit: NASA Ames/Dan Fabrycky, University of California, Santa Cruz

NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered 11 new planetary systems hosting 26 confirmed planets. These discoveries nearly double the number of verified Kepler planets and triple the number of stars known to have more than one planet that transits, or passes in front of, its host star. Such systems will help astronomers better understand how planets form.

The planets orbit close to their host stars and range in size from 1.5 times the radius of Earth to larger than Jupiter. Fifteen of them are between Earth and Neptune in size, and further observations will be required to determine which are rocky like Earth and which have thick gaseous atmospheres like Neptune. The planets orbit their host star once every six to 143 days. All are closer to their host star than Venus is to our sun.

“Prior to the Kepler mission, we knew of perhaps 500 exoplanets across the whole sky,” said Doug Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Now, in just two years staring at a patch of sky not much bigger than your fist, Kepler has discovered more than 60 planets and more than 2,300 planet candidates. This tells us that our galaxy is positively loaded with planets of all sizes and orbits.”

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/news/new-multi-systems.html

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Cassini Significant Events 01/18/2012 – 01/24/2012

January 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Capture of the telemetry data that is carried on Cassini’s 1-way downlink signal, whose frequency is based on the Auxiliary Oscillator in the absence of an operable Ultrastable Oscillator (USO), continues to be normal. The most recent spacecraft tracking and telemetry data were acquired on Jan. 24 from the Deep Space Network 70 meter Deep Space Station 43 at Canberra, Australia. The Cassini spacecraft is in an excellent state of health with all subsystems operating normally except for the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer remaining powered off and the anomalous USO. Information on the present position and speed of the Cassini spacecraft may be found on the “Present Position” page at:http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/presentposition/.

While the spacecraft started inward from apoapsis, Saturn and Titan were again observed with the Optical Remote Sensing (ORS) instruments. The Cassini Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) measured oxygen compounds (H2O, CO2) in Saturn’s stratosphere as a function of latitude, and the Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) measured winds. The Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph imaged Titan and Saturn in the extreme- and far-ultraviolet parts of the spectrum, and ISS led a joint-ORS photometric measurement of Saturn known as an emission-angle scan. CIRS acquired a Saturn mid-infrared map to determine upper troposphere and tropopause temperatures. On Tuesday, ISS observed the small, irregular moon Siarnaq from approximately 26 million kilometers away. Preparations were made for the 56th Project Science Group meeting to be held next week at JPL.

Full Story: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/significantevents/significantevents20120126/

NASA Hosts Briefing on New Observations of Interstellar Matter

January 26, 2012 Leave a comment

NASA will host a Science Update at 1 p.m. EST, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012, to discuss new analysis from NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft of material from outside our solar system and the interstellar boundary region that surrounds our home in space.

The interstellar boundary region shields our solar system from most of the dangerous galactic cosmic radiation that otherwise would enter the solar system from interstellar space.

The briefing will take place at NASA Headquarters in the James E. Webb Auditorium, located at 300 E St. SW, Washington, and will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jan/HQ_M12-016_IBEX.html