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Posts Tagged "exoplanets"

@ScientificAmerican

Scientific American Tweet-Up at the American Museum of Natural History

You say you’d love a fun science evening? Great, here’s your chance. Scientific American will be co-hosting a tweet-up and reception in partnership with the American Museum of Natural History the evening of Wednesday, January 18. While we expand our minds, we’ll enjoy some cocktails and open access to the Beyond Planet Earth exhibit. Attendance [...]

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Basic Space

Exoplanet colour confirmed for first time: it’s blue, but not pale — and nothing like Earth

Deep blue dot

Using data from the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have confirmed that a planet called HD189733b, which orbits a star 63 light years from here, is a deep blue colour. Earth also looks blue from space. But that’s just about the only thing our planet has in common with this one. HD 189773b is a hot [...]

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Basic Space

Good morning Gliese 526, the Earth says hello

LoneSignal

Over the years we’ve sent a lot of stuff into space. Most of that has been spacecraft sent out to explore the solar system — the moon and sun, planets and asteroids. With Voyager poised on the edge of the sun’s influence, we’ll eventually be able to add a tiny pocket of interstellar space to [...]

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Basic Space

Alien planet’s atmosphere contains water and carbon monoxide

Artist's impression of planetary system HR 8799 at an early stage in its evolution, showing the planet HR 8799c, as well as a disk of gas and dust, and interior planets.  Credit: Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics; Mediafarm

Astronomers have found water vapour and carbon monoxide, but no methane, in the atmosphere of an alien planet orbiting a star 129 light years away. The star, known as HR 8799, is at the centre of the first planetary system beyond our solar system to be imaged directly, in 2008. The star has at least [...]

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Basic Space

Pale blue dot or not? What the colour of alien worlds can tell us

Most people are familiar with the pale blue dot image of Earth taken by Voyager in 1990. Its blueness is significant, of course, because it is Earth’s abundant liquid water that makes it look that way. But if you looked at the light that is reflected from Earth carefully, you would see several interesting features. [...]

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Basic Space

Could life arise around a dying star?

White dwarf star Sirius B is roughly the same size as Earth but has a mass 98% that of the sun. Credit: {link url="http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/heic0516c/"}ESA and NASA{/link}

In five billion years the sun is going to blow up into a red giant, then collapse back down again into a white dwarf – a dying star roughly the same size as Earth itself. All of the solar system planets up to, and including, Earth will probably be vaporised during this stellar ballooning. We’ll [...]

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Basic Space

All 2299 Kepler exoplanet candidates orbiting one star

If you think this star system looks a little crowded, that’s because it contains all of the possible alien worlds found by the Kepler planet-hunting mission so far. This animation made by Alex Parker, a postdoctoral researcher in planetary science at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, shows all 2299 of the most likely planetary candidates [...]

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Basic Space

Jupiter sneaked up on asteroid belt, then ran away

An artist’s impression of a hot Jupiter exoplanet. Credit: {link url=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Planetart.jpg”}NASA{/link}

Mars has always been the toddler of the rocky planet family. With a radius half that of Earth’s and a mass just over one tenth of that of our planet, it is bigger than baby Mercury but not quite as grown up as Earth and Venus. Now it seems that some unruly behaviour on behalf [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Copernicus in Cleveland

514px-Nikolaus_Kopernikus

What is our cosmic significance? Does it even make sense to ask a question like that? If you happen to find yourself in Cleveland, Ohio this coming Thursday evening, and stop by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History at 8pm you can catch me talking about this. As part of their Frontiers of Astronomy series [...]

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Life, Unbounded

So You Want To Be An Exozookeeper?

Kepler's tally of exoplanets (Credit: NASA Ames/SETI/J Rowe)

                  This week has seen the release of the latest set of ‘confirmed’ exoplanets from NASA’s Kepler mission. In total, 715 worlds have been added to the list of what are thought to be genuine Kepler planet detections (previously standing at 246). If you’re confused because you’ve [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Cosmic Solitude, Exoplanets, and Books

Credit: NASA

Earlier this week I had the very great pleasure of catching up with Lee Billings, the author of Five Billion Years of Solitude, a beautifully written and provocative new book about the quest to find other Earths, other life in the universe. If you haven’t read it, you should. The Strand Bookstore in New York [...]

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Life, Unbounded

The Great Martian Storm of ’71

(NASA)

                          On November 14th 1971 NASA’s Mariner 9 became the first spacecraft to successfully orbit another planet. Its video-camera imaging system powered up, and American scientists eagerly awaited the first detailed pictures of Mars since the flyby of Mariners 6 and 7 just [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Summer Astrobiology Roundup #3: The Ripening Of The Planets

IMG_0349

Although NASA’s planet hunting mission Kepler seems unlikely to return to a fully functioning state, after another reaction wheel failure, it has already yielded an extraordinary crop of new worlds. In fact, as well as finding many remarkable individual systems (from those orbiting binary stars to those laden down with planets), Kepler has provided a [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Diary Of An Exhausted Scientist

Captured June 5th, the cure for cosmic angst and fatigue (C. Scharf)

I swore I’d never do this, indeed, I’m on record in these very pages as having disparaged the kind of thing I’m about to do. Oh well. All I can say is that normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. Which will be a good thing, because a huge number of interesting and [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Humans Bring On Many Changes, Most Are Far From Painless

What happens in Vegas apparently spreads from Vegas....

From atmospheric changes, to timelapse imagery from Google Earth…our planetary presence is hard to miss. This past week has seen the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth’s atmosphere reach a level of 400 parts-per-million, a value the planet hasn’t seen since several million years ago. To put this into some kind of context let’s [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Plant Life Floods Earth’s Atmosphere

629px-Cloud_forest_mount_kinabalu

A new study estimates that 80 to 90 percent of the atmospheric water vapor originating from Earth’s continents comes from plant transpiration rather than simple physical evaporation. This process uses up almost half of the solar energy absorbed by our landmasses and represents a major piece of our terrestrial climate system. There may be implications [...]

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Life, Unbounded

First Reconnaissance Of An Exoplanetary System

HR 8799

Using cutting edge techniques, a team of astronomers has directly imaged a distant system of four planets, and made history by obtaining simultaneous spectra of these worlds. This first comparative look reveals that the objects each have distinct atmospheric compositions, none of which directly match any previously known class of astrophysical body.     Only [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Dance of the Exoplanets

Fomalhaut and Fomalhaut b (inset) Hubble imagery (Credit:  NASA, ESA, and P. Kalas (University of California, Berkeley and SETI Institute))

It’s been an exciting few days for exoplanetary science. A slew of refined statistical measurements of the abundance of other worlds have made it clearer than ever that our galaxy is crammed with planets. One in six stars should host at least one Earth-sized object in an orbit smaller than that of Mercury, implying that [...]

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Observations

Twin Earth May Be Better than Earth for Life

Artist's vision of Kepler-186f

Pseudo-Earths are out there. That’s the message of today’s exciting announcement that an planet about the same size as Earth lives in its star’s habitable zone—the temperate region around a star where liquid water might flow. “For me, the impact is to prove that such planets really do exist,” said David Charbonneau, an astronomer at [...]

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Observations

Live Chat at Noon Today on Dreams of Other Worlds and NASA’s Next Mars Mission

Robotic exploration of space is fascinating, complex and quite important to our understanding of the universe. To learn more about how scientists and engineers overcome challenges of robotic space exploration for successful data collection, join us for a live chat today (Tuesday, October 29) at noon EDT with Chris Impey, astronomer and author of Dreams of [...]

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Observations

Besides Higgs, Who Might Get the Physics Nobel?

Artist's impression of the planet around Alpha Centauri B

Tomorrow’s Nobel Prize in physics is widely anticipated to go to Peter Higgs, perhaps along with Francois Englert, for their nearly 50-year-old prediction of a new particle that we now call the Higgs boson. Last year’s discovery of the Higgs was one of the most important events in physics in recent decades; surely Higgs and [...]

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Observations

Why It Is Impossible to Pinpoint the 1,000th Exoplanet

Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

The list of known exoplanets is growing so long, so fast, that it is becoming difficult to properly appreciate the new discoveries. For those of us who grew up when our solar system accounted for the only nine worlds known in the entire universe, how are we to grasp the fact that astronomers now discover [...]

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Observations

50 Years Ago an Astronomer Discovered the First Unambiguous Exoplanet (or So He Thought)

Barnard

In April 1963, at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Tucson, Ariz., Peter van de Kamp made what should have been a landmark announcement. By tracking the motion of a dim, nearby star across the night sky, he had uncovered an unseen object tugging ever so slightly on the star and perturbing its [...]

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Observations

NASA’s Kepler Mission Endangered by Hardware Failure

NASA

The prolific planet-hunting spacecraft that has already discovered some of the most intriguing exoplanets known has abruptly lost the capacity to carry out its mission, NASA officials announced May 15. NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, which launched in 2009, relies on an array of flywheels, or reaction-wheel assemblies, to stabilize the pointing of its telescope toward a [...]

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Observations

Planet Naming Rights Not for Sale, Says International Astronomical Union

Artist

Astronomy has a branding problem. It’s an incredibly exciting time for the field, as astronomers are turning up planets orbiting distant stars by the cosmic boatload. But the planets themselves carry dreary names that only a bureaucrat could love. Even the most-studied, best-known planets have names like 51 Pegasi b, HD 209458 b and Alpha [...]

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Observations

Beautiful Video Imagines the Thousands of Known Exoplanets Orbiting a Single Star

LONG BEACH, Calif.—Yesterday I wrote about the excitement at the American Astronomical Meeting here about new exoplanet discoveries. Scientists working on the Kepler satellite announced the discovery of an additional 461 planet candidates, bringing the total to 2,740. What are these planets like? Alex Parker, a postdoctoral researcher in planetary science at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center [...]

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Observations

Massive Planets Might Escape Stellar Engulfment Largely Undiminished

exoplanets, red giant, stellar evolution

Having your planet swallowed by a star is no fun. But some planets might be able to run the astrophysical gauntlet and make it through more or less intact. When a star comparable to or somewhat larger than the sun enters advanced age, it swells up into a red giant, expanding far beyond its original [...]

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Observations

Exoplanet Hunters Get a Technology Boost in Search for Earth-like Planets

laser frequency comb for detecting exoplanets

The European Southern Observatory already has one of the world’s best planet-hunting tools in the HARPS spectrograph. Installed at the 3.6-meter La Silla telescope in Chile, HARPS is an instrument that can detect the extremely subtle wobbles in a star’s motion that may be induced by the gravitational pull of an orbiting planet. But the [...]

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The Countdown

An Asteroid with 6 Tails, and More – The Countdown, Episode 35

More to explore: Bizarre Asteroid with Six Tails Spotted by Hubble Telescope (Space.com) Liftoff! India’s First Mars Probe Launches Toward the Red Planet (Space.com) Kepler Telescope Finds Plethora of Earth-Size Planets (Scientific American) Chelyabinsk Eyewitnesses Help Scientists Resolve Meteor Mysteries (Scientific American) Gravity Maps Reveal Why the Moon’s Far Side Is Covered with Craters (Nature [...]

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The Countdown

5 Amazing Exoplanets – The Countdown, Episode 33

Artist's conception of TrES-2b, the darkest known exoplanet.

  More to explore: Exoplanet colour confirmed for first time: it’s blue, but not pale — and nothing like Earth (Scientific American Blog Network) http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/b… Diamond ‘Super-Earth’ May Not be Quite as Precious (University of Arizona) http://uanews.org/story/diamond-super… Strange Exoplanet’s ‘Backwards’ Orbit Explained by Extra Star, Planet (Space.com) http://www.space.com/19421-backward-a… Astronomers Find Most Ancient Planet Yet (Scientific [...]

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The Countdown

The Countdown, Episode 20 – Star Factory, Five New Exoplanets, Saturn Ring Rain, Planet-Naming Controversy, Missing Mars Lander Found

5) Star Factory About 880 million years after the Big Bang, a huge galaxy was building new stars at an incredible pace. An international team of astronomers discovered the galaxy HFLS3 with help from 12 observatories all over the world. HFLS3 is a starburst galaxy, which means it turns gas into stars at an extremely [...]

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