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Posts Tagged ‘Kepler’

Weather On Alien Worlds Uncovered: Cloudy Mornings & Hot Afternoons

May 12, 2015 1 comment

TORONTO, May 12, 2015 — We may complain a lot about the weather on earth but perhaps we are much better off here than on some alien worlds, where the daily forecast is cloudy, overcast skies in the morning and scorching heat in the afternoon.

A team of international astronomers including York University scientist Professor Ray Jayawardhana have uncovered evidence of daily weather cycles on six extra-solar planets using sensitive observations from the Kepler space telescope.

“Despite the discovery of thousands of extra-solar planets, what these far-off worlds look like is still shrouded in mystery,” says lead author Lisa Esteves, graduate student at the University of Toronto.

In their paper entitled “Changing Phases of Alien Worlds: Probing Atmospheres of Kepler Planets with High-Precision Photometry” published today in the Astrophysical Journal, the team analyzed all 14 Kepler planets known to exhibit phase variations, and found indications of cloudy mornings on four and hot, clear afternoons on two others.

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UH Astronomer, Keck Observatory Confirm First Kepler K2 Exoplanet Discovery

December 19, 2014 Leave a comment

Artist’s conception. Artwork courtesy CfA

Artist’s conception. Artwork courtesy CfA

Despite a malfunction that ended its primary mission in May 2013, NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has discovered a new super-Earth using data collected during its “second life,” known as the K2 mission.

University of Hawaii astronomer Christoph Baranec supplied confirming data with his Robo-AO instrument mounted on the Palomar 1.5-meter telescope, and former UH graduate student Brendan Bowler, now a Joint Center for Planetary Astronomy postdoctoral fellow at Caltech, provided additional confirming observations using the Keck II adaptive optics system on Maunakea.

The Kepler spacecraft detects planets by looking for planets that transit, or cross in front of, their star as seen from the vantage of Earth. During the transit, the star’s light dims slightly. The smaller the planet, the weaker the dimming, so brightness measurements must be exquisitely precise. To enable that precision, the spacecraft must maintain a steady pointing.

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NASA Space Telescopes Find Patchy Clouds On Exotic World

October 1, 2013 Leave a comment

Astronomers using data from NASA’s Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes have created the first cloud map of a planet beyond our solar system, a sizzling, Jupiter-like world known as Kepler-7b.

The planet is marked by high clouds in the west and clear skies in the east. Previous studies from Spitzer have resulted in temperature maps of planets orbiting other stars, but this is the first look at cloud structures on a distant world.

“By observing this planet with Spitzer and Kepler for more than three years, we were able to produce a very low-resolution ‘map’ of this giant, gaseous planet,” said Brice-Olivier Demory of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Demory is lead author of a paper accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. “We wouldn’t expect to see oceans or continents on this type of world, but we detected a clear, reflective signature that we interpreted as clouds.”

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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.

Using observations gathered by NASA’s Kepler Mission, the team, led by William Borucki of the NASA Ames Research Center, found five planets orbiting a Sun-like star called Kepler-62. Four of these planets are so-called super-Earths, larger than our own planet, but smaller than even the smallest ice giant planet in our Solar System. These new super-Earths have radii of 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, and 1.9 times that of Earth. In addition, one of the five was a roughly Mars-sized planet, half the size of Earth.

The two super-Earths with radii of 1.4 and 1.6 Earth radii orbit their star at distances where they receive about 41% and 120%, respectively, of the warmth from their star that the Earth receives from the Sun. The planets are thus in the star’s habitable zone; they have the right temperatures to maintain liquid water on their surfaces and are theoretically hospitable to life.

“This appears to be the best example our team has found yet of Earth-like planets in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star,” Boss said.

Full Story: http://carnegiescience.edu/news/new_earthlike_planets_found
Also: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=127676

Has Kepler Found Ideal SETI-Target Planets?


NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered a new planetary system that is home to five small planets around a slightly smaller star than our Sun. Two of them are super-Earth planets, most likely made of rock or ice mixed with rock, which are located in the habitable zone of their host star. This discovery is providing a target for the SETI search, since if life has thrived on these worlds and reached a point where civilization has developed complex technology, it may be detectable.

When the NASA Kepler mission was launched on March 9, 2007, the Delta II rocket was carrying the hope of a large community of scientists who dedicate their work to studying extra-solar planets, planets in orbit around other stars. The Kepler mission’s main scientific objective is exploration of the structure and diversity of planetary systems. It accomplishes this goal by staring almost constantly at a large field composed of about 150,000 stars to detect small dips in brightness due to the transits of a planet.

Full Story: http://www.seti.org/seti_kepler_62

Kepler Mission Manager Update

May 20, 2012 Leave a comment

April was a momentous time for the mission! The team received approval for a mission extension through fiscal year 2016, based on a recommendation from NASA’s 2012 Senior Review of Astrophysics Missions. In addition to Kepler, eight other missions were approved.

The extended mission will begin in October 2012. The team has been busy preparing a transition plan to carry the mission through 2016. The extended mission paradigm will be to operate with more dependence on, and service to, the astronomical community. The Kepler exoplanet survey will continue, but, to reduce mission cost, the project will support follow-up observation and analysis only of planet candidates near Earth-size and then produce a reliable catalog of the near Earth-size candidates.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/news/keplerm-20120515.html

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