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Exoplanet

Starshade and its space telescope (Image: NASA)

Apparently NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, thinks that what space exploration in the 21st century needs is spacecraft that are a bit more botanical. The center has released a video showing off its starshade spacecraft that opens up like a blossom. Bearing a resemblance to a cosmic sunflower, it’s designed to help astronomers to directly study exoplanets, including taking the first actual pictures of planets beyond our Solar System.  Read More

“Kepler has produced results needed to take the next big step forward in humankind's searc...

It’s been five years since NASA’s $600 million Kepler Space Telescope was launched to look for planets beyond our Solar System – so-called exoplanets – and while the quest to find a twin for Earth has so far been fruitless, Kepler’s observations have revealed our galaxy to be full of worlds potentially able to support life.  Read More

Artist's concept of exoplanet systems (Image: NASA)

It’s a good thing that planets outside our Solar System get catalog designations instead of proper names, or space scientists would now be scraping the barrel for “Ralph” or “Tigger.” That’s because on Wednesday, NASA announced that the Kepler space telescope had hit the “motherload” of exoplanets, confirming 715 new planets in 315 star systems. It used a new statistical technique that the space agency says has removed a bottleneck that has plagued the analysis of the Kepler data.  Read More

Artist's concept of the Kepler space telescope (Image: NASA)

Last year, it looked as though the Kepler space probe had nothing to look forward to but the scrap heap. After the failure of two of its reaction wheels, the unmanned spacecraft was incapable of maintaining the precision pointing needed to hunt planets beyond the Solar System. Now, however, NASA’s Kepler team has demonstrated that space telescope can still detect exoplanets thanks the K2 mission concept maneuver.  Read More

The Alpha Centauri system and hypothetical planet (Image: European Southern Observatory)

Since Earth is the only known inhabited planet and we happen to live here, it’s only natural to regard it as the ideal place for life to exist, and to assume that another life-bearing planet would be fairly similar. However, that is not the opinion of scientists René Heller and John Armstrong who contend that there might be a planet even more suitable for life than Earth 4.3 light years away orbiting the star Alpha Centauri B.  Read More

The team targeted the Beta Pictoris system and retrieved direct images of the planet Beta ...

Following almost 10 years of development, the Gemini Observatory has debuted an advanced planet imaging instrument and captured a direct image of exoplanet Beta Pictoris b, signifying a breakthrough in our ability to analyze extrasolar planets. Called the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), the tool uses an advanced optics system with an infrared spectograph to retrieve direct images of young planets orbiting distant stars.  Read More

Artistic rendering of a planet's transmission spectrum (Image: Christine Daniloff/MIT, Jul...

A team of MIT researchers has described a new method for finding the mass of exoplanets by studying the spectra of light passing through the planet's atmosphere. Because a planet's mass can tell us a lot about its potential for harboring life, this development could provide an important tool in solving the puzzle of whether or not we're alone in the universe.  Read More

Artist's concept of Kepler-62f, an Earth-like planet (Image: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/Tim Pyl...

Bookmakers may be revising their odds on the question of us being alone in the Universe after scientists revealed that our galaxy could hold billions of habitable worlds. University of California Berkeley and University of Hawaii (UH) astronomers carried out a study using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope to provide part of the answer to the question, “How many of the 200 billion stars in our galaxy have potentially habitable planets?” The answer they got back was that one in five sun-like stars may have Earth-size planets that could support life.  Read More

Gaia mapping the stars of the Milky Way (Photo: ESA/ATG medialab; background image: ESO/S....

The Gaia mission to map a billion stars in the Milky Way has been delayed for about two months by the European Space Agency. Problems in X-band transponders used in other satellites have begun to appear, and the ESA has decided to replace those modules prior to launching. The likely blastoff date will be in late December of this year.  Read More

Artist's conception of exoplanet PSO J318.5-22, which was discovered floating through inte...

If you think being stuck in a strange town late at night after the last bus has gone is lonely, then give a thought for the exoplanet PSO J318.5-22. Discovered this year by astronomers at the University of Hawaii, this planet was found floating through interstellar space without a parent star and is one of the smallest free-floating objects seen outside of the Solar System.  Read More

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