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  • richardmitnick 10:32 am on May 27, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Astronomers find 18 more Earth-sized exoplanets in Kepler data", , , , , , , NASA Kepler K2, Transit Least-Squares algorithm   

    From NASA via EarthSky: “Astronomers find 18 more Earth-sized exoplanets in Kepler data” 

    NASA image
    From NASA

    via

    1

    EarthSky

    May 27, 2019
    Paul Scott Anderson

    A new survey algorithm – called Transit Least-Squares – has just caused the number of known, rocky, Earth-sized worlds orbiting distant stars to grow again, as astronomers add another 18 exoplanets to the list.

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    Size comparison with Earth, Neptune and the 18 newly discovered exoplanets. Wouldn’t it be grand to see surface details on these new worlds? Image via NASA/JPL (Neptune), NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring (Earth), MPS/René Heller.

    Exoplanets about the same size as Earth can be some of the most difficult to detect, but their numbers are growing, and now scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Georg August University of Göttingen and the Sonneberg Observatory have added 18 more exoplanets to the ever-expanding list (as of May 1, 2019, there were 4,058 confirmed planets in 3,033 systems, with 658 systems having more than one planet). All 18 new exoplanets were found during a re-analysis of data from the highly effective Kepler Space Telescope planet-hunting mission, using a new, more sensitive search algorithm called Transit Least-Squares.

    NASA/Kepler Telescope, and K2 March 7, 2009 until November 15, 2018

    The first fruits of the new algorithm may be found in peer-reviewed findings published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics in two new papers, here and here. The first paper, focusing on exoplanet K2-32e, was published a few weeks ago, and the second paper regarding the other 17 exoplanets was published on May 21, 2019.

    These newly-found worlds are some of the smallest detected so far. They range in size from only 69 percent of the diameter of Earth (EPIC 201497682.03, 831 light-years away) to just slightly more than twice as large as Earth. All of them were hiding in the Kepler data, and were not found in previous searches because the search algorithms were not sensitive enough. Like many other exoplanet hunters, Kepler used the transit method, where a planet passes in front of its star, as seen from our vantage point here on Earth.

    Planet transit. NASA/Ames

    As the planet transits in front of the star, it blocks out a tiny amount of the light coming from the star, which can then be measured by astronomers. As René Heller of Max Planck Institute, first author of both papers, explained:

    “Standard search algorithms attempt to identify sudden drops in brightness. In reality, however, a stellar disk appears slightly darker at the edge than in the center. When a planet moves in front of a star, it therefore initially blocks less starlight than at the mid-time of the transit. The maximum dimming of the star occurs in the center of the transit just before the star becomes gradually brighter again.”

    As could be expected, larger planets are the easiest to detect, since they block out more light from their stars during a transit. The amount of light blocked by smaller planets can easily be missed, as it can be hard to distinguish from the natural brightness fluctuations of the star itself and the background noise that is part of these kinds of observations.

    The new Transit Least-Squares algorithm improves the sensitivity of the transit method, making it easier to find smaller planets like Earth, as Michael Hippke of Sonneberg Observatory said:

    “Our new algorithm helps to draw a more realistic picture of the exoplanet population in space. This method constitutes a significant step forward, especially in the search for Earth-like planets.”

    All of the new planets were found in data from the K2 part of the Kepler mission. The K2 phase was initiated after the primary mission ended in 2013, after technical malfunctions with the telescope’s reaction wheels, which helped to keep Kepler stable for its observations of stars (K2 then ended in 2018). These researchers re-analyzed the 517 stars from K2 that were known to have at least one planet each.

    So what are these new planets like?

    Most of them, unfortunately, are not good candidates for life, orbiting their stars closer than any seen before, with temperatures ranging from over 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius) to 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 degrees Celsius). One of them, however, EPIC 201238110.02, orbits within its star’s habitable zone, the region around a star where liquid water can exist. EPIC 201238110.02 is 1.87 times Earth’s diameter and 522 light-years away.

    The first planet, K2-32e, orbits the star EPIC 205071984 and is the fourth known planet in that system. The other three planets are all Neptune-sized.

    It is now expected that – using Transit Least-Squares – astronomers should be able to find at least another 100 Earth-sized planets in the data from the primary Kepler mission phase. This bodes well for discovering many more such worlds with other telescopes as well, such as NASA’s orbiting TESS satellite, the newest member of the planet-hunting family, which has picked up where Kepler left off.

    The European Space Agency’s PLATO is another mission that will benefit from these findings with the new algorithm, according to Laurent Gizon, managing director at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research:

    “This new method is also particularly useful to prepare for the upcoming PLATO mission to be launched in 2026 by the European Space Agency.”

    ESA/PLATO

    Future telescopes, both space and land-based, are expected to find thousands more exoplanets in the years ahead, including ones that are Earth-sized, like these 18 new ones. Some telescopes, such as NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, will also be able to analyze the atmospheres of some of those distant worlds, looking for trace gases that may be a sign of life.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:52 pm on March 28, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Two New Planets Discovered Using Artificial Intelligence", AI helps us search the data set uniformly, , K2 data is more challenging to work with because the spacecraft was moving around all the time, , , NASA Kepler K2, Of the two planets one is called K2-293b and orbits a star 1300 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius. The other K2-294b orbits a star 1230 light-years away also located in Aquarius.,   

    From University of Texas at Austin: “Two New Planets Discovered Using Artificial Intelligence” 

    U Texas Austin bloc

    From University of Texas at Austin

    McDonald Observatory U Texas at Austin

    U Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory, Altitude 2,070 m (6,790 ft)

    26 March 2019

    Media Contact:
    Rebecca Johnson, Communications Mgr.
    rjohnson@astro.as.utexas.edu
    McDonald Observatory
    512-475-6763

    Science Contacts:
    Anne Dattilo
    anne.dattilo@utexas.edu
    Department of Astronomy
    512-471-6493

    Dr. Andrew Vanderburg
    %u200Bavanderburg@utexas.edu
    Department of Astronomy
    512-471-6493

    Astronomers at The University of Texas at Austin, in partnership with Google, have used artificial intelligence (AI) to uncover two more hidden planets in the Kepler space telescope archive. The technique shows promise for identifying many additional planets that traditional methods could not catch.

    The planets discovered this time were from Kepler’s extended mission, called K2.

    NASA/Kepler Telescope, and K2 March 7, 2009 until November 15, 2018

    3
    Anne Dattilo

    To find them, the team, led by an undergraduate at UT Austin, Anne Dattilo, created an algorithm that sifts through the data taken by Kepler to ferret out signals that were missed by traditional planet-hunting methods. Long term, the process should help astronomers find many more missed planets hiding in Kepler data. The discoveries have been accepted for publication in an upcoming issue of The Astronomical Journal.

    Other team members include NASA Sagan fellow at UT Austin Andrew Vanderburg and Google engineer Christopher Shallue. In 2017, Vanderburg and Shallue first used AI to uncover a planet around a Kepler star — one already known to harbor seven planets. The discovery made that solar system the only one known to have as many planets as our own.

    Dattilo explained that this project necessitated a new algorithm, as data taken during Kepler’s extended mission K2 differs significantly from that collected during the spacecraft’s original mission.

    “K2 data is more challenging to work with because the spacecraft is moving around all the time,” Vanderburg explained. This change came about after a mechanical failure. While mission planners found a workaround, the spacecraft was left with a wobble that AI had to take into account.

    The Kepler and K2 missions have already discovered thousands of planets around other stars, with an equal number of candidates awaiting confirmation. So why do astronomers need to use AI to search the Kepler archive for more?

    “AI will help us search the data set uniformly,” Vanderburg said. “Even if every star had an Earth-sized planet around it, when we look with Kepler, we won’t find all of them. That’s just because some of the data’s too noisy, or sometimes the planets are just not aligned right. So, we have to correct for the ones we missed. We know there are a lot of planets out there that we don’t see for those reasons.

    “If we want to know how many planets there are in total, we have to know how many planets we’ve found, but we also have to know how many planets we missed. That’s where this comes in,” he explained.

    The two planets Dattilo’s team found “are both very typical of planets found in K2,” she said. “They’re really close in to their host star, they have short orbital periods, and they’re hot. They are slightly larger than Earth.”

    Of the two planets, one is called K2-293b and orbits a star 1,300 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius. The other, K2-294b, orbits a star 1,230 light-years away, also located in Aquarius.

    Once the team used their algorithm to find these planets, they followed up by studying the host stars using ground-based telescopes to confirm that the planets are real. These observations were done with the 1.5-meter telescope at the Smithsonian Institution’s Whipple Observatory in Arizona and the Gillett Telescope at Gemini Observatory in Hawaii.

    The 1.5-meter Tillinghast Telescope, Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory,Mount Hopkins, Arizona, US in AZ, USA, Altitude 2,606 m 8,550 ft


    Frederick C Gillett Gemini North Telescope Maunakea, Hawaii, USA

    The future of the AI concept for finding planets hidden in data sets looks bright. The current algorithm can be used to probe the entire K2 data set, Dattilo said — approximately 300,000 stars. She also believes the method is applicable to Kepler’s successor planet-hunting mission, TESS, which launched in April 2018. Kepler’s mission ended later that year.

    NASA/MIT TESS replaced Kepler in search for exoplanets

    Dattilo plans to continue her work using AI for planet hunting when she enters graduate school in the fall.

    See the full article here
    .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Texas at Austin

    U Texas Austin campus

    In 1839, the Congress of the Republic of Texas ordered that a site be set aside to meet the state’s higher education needs. After a series of delays over the next several decades, the state legislature reinvigorated the project in 1876, calling for the establishment of a “university of the first class.” Austin was selected as the site for the new university in 1881, and construction began on the original Main Building in November 1882. Less than one year later, on Sept. 15, 1883, The University of Texas at Austin opened with one building, eight professors, one proctor, and 221 students — and a mission to change the world. Today, UT Austin is a world-renowned higher education, research, and public service institution serving more than 51,000 students annually through 18 top-ranked colleges and schools.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:57 pm on November 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , NASA Kepler K2,   

    From Many Worlds: “The Kepler Space Telescope Mission Is Ending But Its Legacy Will Keep Growing” 

    NASA NExSS bloc

    NASA NExSS

    Many Words icon

    From Many Worlds

    2018-11-01
    Marc Kaufman

    NASA/Kepler Telescope

    As of October 2018, the planet-hunting spacecraft has been in space for nearly a decade. (NASA via AP)

    The Kepler Space Telescope is dead. Long live the Kepler.

    NASA officials announced on Tuesday that the pioneering exoplanet survey telescope — which had led to the identification of almost 2,700 exoplanets — had finally reached its end, having essentially run out of fuel. This is after nine years of observing, after a malfunctioning steering system required a complex fix and change of plants, and after the hydrazine fuel levels reached empty.

    While the sheer number of exoplanets discovered is impressive the telescope did substantially more: it proved once and for all that the galaxy is filled with planets orbiting distant stars. Before Kepler this was speculated, but now it is firmly established thanks to the Kepler run.

    It also provided data for thousands of papers exploring the logic and characteristics of exoplanets. And that’s why the Kepler will indeed live long in the world of space science.

    “As NASA’s first planet-hunting mission, Kepler has wildly exceeded all our expectations and paved the way for our exploration and search for life in the solar system and beyond,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

    “Not only did it show us how many planets could be out there, it sparked an entirely new and robust field of research that has taken the science community by storm. Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars.”

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    The Kepler Space Telescope was focused on hunting for planets in this patch of the Milky Way. After two of its four spinning reaction wheels failed, it could no longer remain steady enough to stare that those distant stars but was reconfigured to look elsewhere and at a different angle for the K2 mission. (Carter Roberts/NASA)

    Kepler was initially the unlikely brainchild of William Borucki, its founding principal investigator who is now retired from NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

    3
    William Borucki, originally the main champion for the Kepler idea and later the principal investigator of the mission. His work at NASA went back to the Apollo days. (NASA)

    When he began thinking of designing and proposing a space telescope that could potentially tell us how common distant exoplanets were — and especially smaller terrestrial exoplanets like Earth – the science of extra solar planets was at a very different stage.

    “When we started conceiving this mission 35 years ago we didn’t know of a single planet outside our solar system,” Borucki said. “Now that we know planets are everywhere, Kepler has set us on a new course that’s full of promise for future generations to explore our galaxy.”

    The space telescope was launched in 2009. While Kepler did not find the first exoplanets — that required the work of astronomers using a different technique of observing based on the “wobble” of stars caused by orbiting planets — it did change the exoplanet paradigm substantially.

    Not only did it prove that exoplanets are common, it found that planets outnumber stars in our galaxy (which has hundreds of billions of those stars.)

    In addition it found that small, terrestrial-size planets are common as well, with some 20 to 50 percent of stars likely to have planets of that size and type. And what menagerie of planets it found out there.

    Among the greatest surprises: The Kepler mission provided data showing that the most common sized planets in the galaxy fall somewhere between Earth and Neptune, a type of planet that isn’t present in our solar system.

    It found solar systems of all sizes as well, including some with many planets (as many as eight) orbiting close to their host star.

    The discovery of these compact systems, generally orbiting a red dwarf star, raised questions about how solar systems form: Are these planets “born” close to their parent star, or do they form farther out and migrate in?

    So far, more than 2,500 peer-reviewed papers have been published using Kepler data, with substantial amounts of that data still unmined.

    Natalie Batalha was the project and mission scientist for Kepler for much of its run, and I asked her about its legacy.

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    Astrophysicist Natalie Batalha was the Kepler project and mission scientist for a decade. She left NASA recently for the University of California at Santa Cruz “to carry on the Kepler legacy” by creating an interdisciplinary center for the study of planetary habitability.

    “When I think of Kepler’s influence across all of astrophysics, I’m amazed at what such a simple experiment accomplished,” she wrote in an email. “You’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more boring mandate — to unblinkingly measure the brightnesses of the same stars for years on end. No beautiful images. No fancy spectra. No landscapes. Just dots in a scatter plot.

    “And yet time-domain astronomy exploded. We’d never looked at the Universe quite this way before. We saw lava worlds and water worlds and disintegrating planets and heart-beat stars and supernova shock waves and the spinning cores of stars and planets the age of the galaxy itself… all from those dots.”

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    The Kepler-62 system is but one of many solar systems detected by the space telescope. The planets within the green discs are in the habitable zones of the stars — where water could be liquid at times. (NASA)

    While Kepler provided remarkable answers to questions about the overall planetary makeup of our galaxy, it did not identify smaller planets that will be directly imaged, the evolving gold standard for characterizing exoplanets. The 150,000 stars that the telescope was observing were very distant, in the range of a few hundred to a few thousand light-years away. One light year is about 6 trillion (6,000,000,000,000) miles.

    Nonetheless, Kepler was able to detect the presence of a handful of Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of their stars. The Kepler-62 system held one of them, and it is 1200 light-years away. In contrast, the four Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone of the much-studied Trappist-1 system are 39 light-years away.

    Kepler made its observations using the the transit technique, which looks for tiny dips in the amount of light coming from a star caused by the presence of a planet passing in front of the star. While the inference that exoplanets are ubiquitous came from Kepler results, the telescope was actually observing but a small bit of the sky. It has been estimated that it would require around 400 space telescopes like Kepler to cover the whole sky.

    What’s more, only planets whose orbits are seen edge-on from Earth can be detected via the transit method, and that rules out a vast number of exoplanets.

    The bulk of the stars that were selected for close Kepler observation were more or less sun-like, but a sampling of other stars occurred as well. One of the most important factors was brightness. Detecting minuscule changes in brightness caused by transiting planet is impossible if the star is too dim.

    Four years into the mission, after the primary mission objectives had been met, mechanical failures temporarily halted observations. The mission team was able to devise a fix, switching the spacecraft’s field of view roughly every three months. This enabled an extended mission for the spacecraft, dubbed K2, which lasted as long as the first mission and bumped Kepler’s count of surveyed stars up to more than 500,000.

    But it was inevitable that the mission would come to an end sooner rather than later because of that dwindling fuel supply, needed to keep the telescope properly pointed.

    Kepler cannot be refueled because NASA decided to place the telescope in an orbit around the sun that is well beyond the influence of the Earth and moon — to simplify operations and ensure an extremely quiet, stable environment for scientific observations. So Kepler was beyond the reach of any refueling vessel. The Kepler team compensated by flying considerably more fuel than was necessary to meet the mission objectives.

    The video below explains what will happen to the Kepler capsule once it is decommissioned. But a NASA release explains that the final commands “will be to turn off the spacecraft transmitters and disable the onboard fault protection that would turn them back on. While the spacecraft is a long way from Earth and requires enormous antennas to communicate with it, it is good practice to turn off transmitters when they are no longer being used, and not pollute the airwaves with potential interference.”

    And so Kepler will actually continue orbiting for many decades, just as its legacy will continue long after operations cease.

    Kepler’s follow-on exoplanet surveyor — the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite or TESS — was launched this year and has begun sending back data.

    NASA/MIT TESS

    Its primary mission objective is to survey the brightest stars near the Earth for transiting exoplanets. The TESS satellite uses an array of wide-field cameras to survey some 85% of the sky, and is planned to last for two years.

    See the full article here .


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    About Many Worlds

    There are many worlds out there waiting to fire your imagination.

    Marc Kaufman is an experienced journalist, having spent three decades at The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer, and is the author of two books on searching for life and planetary habitability. While the “Many Worlds” column is supported by the Lunar Planetary Institute/USRA and informed by NASA’s NExSS initiative, any opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

    This site is for everyone interested in the burgeoning field of exoplanet detection and research, from the general public to scientists in the field. It will present columns, news stories and in-depth features, as well as the work of guest writers.

    About NExSS

    The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) is a NASA research coordination network dedicated to the study of planetary habitability. The goals of NExSS are to investigate the diversity of exoplanets and to learn how their history, geology, and climate interact to create the conditions for life. NExSS investigators also strive to put planets into an architectural context — as solar systems built over the eons through dynamical processes and sculpted by stars. Based on our understanding of our own solar system and habitable planet Earth, researchers in the network aim to identify where habitable niches are most likely to occur, which planets are most likely to be habitable. Leveraging current NASA investments in research and missions, NExSS will accelerate the discovery and characterization of other potentially life-bearing worlds in the galaxy, using a systems science approach.
    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:28 pm on June 7, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA Kepler K2, Researchers discover a system with three Earth-sized planets   

    From Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias – IAC : “Researchers discover a system with three Earth-sized planets” 


    Manu Garcia, a friend from IAC.

    The universe around us.
    Astronomy, everything you wanted to know about our local universe and never dared to ask.

    IAC

    From Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias – IAC

    Jun. 6, 2018
    Contact at the IAC:
    Jonay González Hernández
    jonay@iac.es

    The Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) and the University of Oviedo present today the discovery of two new planetary systems, one of them hosting three planets with the same size of the Earth.

    1

    The information about these new exoplanets has been obtained from the data collected by the K2 mission of NASA’s Kepler satellite, which started in November 2013.

    NASA/Kepler Telescope

    The work, which will be published in the Monthly Notices of the magazine Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS), reveals the existence of two new planetary systems detected from the eclipses they produce in the stellar light of their respective stars. In the research team led jointly by Javier de Cos at the University of Oviedo, and Rafael Rebolo at the IAC, participate, along with researchers from these two centres, others from the University of Geneva and the Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC).

    The first exoplanetary system is located in the star K2-239, characterized by these researchers as a red dwarf type M3V from observations made with the Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC), at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (Garafía, La Palma). It is located in the constellation of the Sextant at 50 parsecs from the Sun (at about 160 light years). It has a compact system of at least three rocky planets of similar size to the Earth (1.1, 1.0 and 1.1 Earth radii) that orbit the star every 5.2, 7.8 and 10.1 days, respectively.

    The other red dwarf star called K2-240 has two super-Earth-like planets about twice the size of our planet. Although the atmospheric temperature of red dwarf stars, around which these planets revolve, is 3,450 and 3,800 K respectively, almost half the temperature of our Sun. These researchers estimate that all planets discovered will have temperatures superficial tens of degrees higher than those of the planet Earth due to the strong radiation they receive in these close orbits to their stars.

    Future observation campaigns with the new James Webb space telescope will characterize the composition of the atmospheres of the discovered planets. Spectroscopic observations with the ESPRESSO instrument, installed in the Very Large Telescope (VLT), of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), or with future spectrographs in the GTC or in new astronomical facilities, such as the ELT or the TMT, will be crucial to determine the masses, densities and physical properties of these planets.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    Espresso Layout


    ESO/ESPRESSO on the VLT


    ESO VLT Interferometer, at Cerro Paranal, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

    ESO/E-ELT,to be on top of Cerro Armazones in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, at an altitude 3,046 m (9,993 ft)

    TMT-Thirty Meter Telescope, proposed and now approved for Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    Astro-ph: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1806.01181.pdf

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

    The Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias(IAC) is an international research centre in Spain which comprises:

    The Instituto de Astrofísica, the headquarters, which is in La Laguna (Tenerife).
    The Centro de Astrofísica en La Palma (CALP)
    The Observatorio del Teide (OT), in Izaña (Tenerife).
    The Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos (ORM), in Garafía (La Palma).

    Roque de los Muchachos Observatory is an astronomical observatory located in the municipality of Garafía on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, at an altitude of 2,396 m (7,861 ft)

    These centres, with all the facilities they bring together, make up the European Northern Observatory(ENO).

    The IAC is constituted administratively as a Public Consortium, created by statute in 1982, with involvement from the Spanish Government, the Government of the Canary Islands, the University of La Laguna and Spain’s Science Research Council (CSIC).

    The International Scientific Committee (CCI) manages participation in the observatories by institutions from other countries. A Time Allocation Committee (CAT) allocates the observing time reserved for Spain at the telescopes in the IAC’s observatories.

    The exceptional quality of the sky over the Canaries for astronomical observations is protected by law. The IAC’s Sky Quality Protection Office (OTPC) regulates the application of the law and its Sky Quality Group continuously monitors the parameters that define observing quality at the IAC Observatories.

    The IAC’s research programme includes astrophysical research and technological development projects.

    The IAC is also involved in researcher training, university teaching and outreachactivities.

    The IAC has devoted much energy to developing technology for the design and construction of a large 10.4 metre diameter telescope, the ( Gran Telescopio CANARIAS, GTC), which is sited at the Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos.


    Gran Telescopio Canarias at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma, in the Canaries, SpainGran Telescopio CANARIAS, GTC

     
  • richardmitnick 12:08 pm on March 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , NASA Kepler K2, , , National Computational Infrastructure at the Australian National University in Canberra, SkyMapper telescope at Siding Spring Observatory, SN KSN 2015K,   

    From Space Science Telescope Institute via COSMOS: “Gone in a flash: supernova burns up in just 25 days” 

    Space Science Telescope Institute

    COSMOS

    27 March 2018
    Lauren Fuge

    Huge, bright and incredibly violent, a new supernova provides new challenges for astronomers.

    1
    An artists impression of how the explosive light of the supernova was hidden for a while behind a cocoon of ejected dust. Nature Astronomy.

    Astronomers have witnessed a blazing supernova explosion that faded away 10 times faster than expected.

    A supernova is the violent death of a massive star, typically occurring when it exhausts its fuel supply and collapses under its own weight, generating a powerful shockwave that blasts light and material out into space.

    Supernovae often blaze so brightly that they briefly outshine all the other stars in their host galaxy. They show off for months on end — in 1054, a supernova could be seen during the day for three weeks and only disappeared completely after two years. Its remnants are known as the Crab Nebula.

    2
    The Crab Nebula in all its glory. NASA, ESA, NRAO/AUI/NSF and G. Dubner (University of Buenos Aires).

    Now an international team of astronomers, led by Armin Rest from the Space Science Telescope Institute in Baltimore, US, has observed a supernova that rapidly soared to its peak brightness in 2.2 days then faded away in just 25.

    “When I first saw the Kepler data, and realised how short this transient is, my jaw dropped,” recalls Rest.

    The supernova, dubbed KSN 2015K, is part of a puzzling class of rare events called Fast-Evolving Luminous Transients (FELTs).

    4
    KSN 2015K’s host is the star-forming spiral galaxy 2MASX-J13315109-1044061. Image credit: Rest et al: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-018-0423-2.

    FELTs don’t fit into existing supernova models and astronomers are still debating their sources. Previous suggestions include the afterglow of a gamma-ray burst, a supernova turbo-boosted by a magnetically-powerful neutron star, or a failed example of special type of binary star supernova known as a type 1a. KSN 2015K is the most extreme example found so far.

    In a paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy, the team says that KSN 2015K’s behaviour can most likely be explained by its surroundings: the star was swathed in dense gas and dust that it ejected in its old age, like a caterpillar spinning a cocoon. When the supernova detonated, it took some time for the resulting shock wave to slam into the shell of material and produce a burst of light, becoming visible to astronomers.

    KSN 2015K was captured by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, which is designed to hunt for planets by noticing the tiny, temporary dips in light from far-away stars when planets pass in front of them.

    NASA/Kepler Telescope

    Planet transit. NASA/Ames

    This exact skill is also useful in studying supernovae and other brief, explosive events.

    “Using Kepler’s high-speed light-measuring capabilities, we’ve been able to see this exotic star explosion in incredible detail,” says team member Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist from the Australian National University.

    Co-author David Khatami from the University of California, Berkeley, US, adds that this is the first time astronomers can test FELT models to a high degree of accuracy. “The fact that Kepler completely captured the rapid evolution really constrains the exotic ways in which stars die,” he says.

    Australian researchers and facilities were also key to this discovery. Follow-up observations were made with the SkyMapper telescope at Siding Spring Observatory, and then processed by the National Computational Infrastructure at the Australian National University in Canberra.

    ANU Skymapper telescope, a fully automated 1.35 m (4.4 ft) wide-angle optical telescope, at Siding Spring Observatory , near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia, Altitude 1,165 m (3,822 ft)

    Siding Spring Observatory, near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia, Altitude 1,165 m (3,822 ft)

    4
    The National Computational Infrastructure building at the Australian National University

    Tucker says that by learning more about how stars live and die, astronomers can better understand solar systems as a whole, including the potential life on orbiting planets.

    He concludes: “With the imminent launch of NASA’s new space telescope, TESS, we hope to find even more of these rare and violent explosions.”

    NASA/TESS

    See the full article here . Other articles here and here and here.

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  • richardmitnick 1:28 pm on March 26, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A new kind of supernova, , , , , FELTs - Fast-Evolving Luminous Transients, , , NASA Kepler K2   

    From Hubble: “Kepler Solves Mystery of Fast and Furious Explosions” 

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    Mar 26, 2018

    Ray Villard
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
    410-338-4514
    villard@stsci.edu

    Armin Rest
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
    410-338-4358
    arest@stsci.edu

    1
    Space Observatory Captures the Details of an Unusual Stellar Detonation.

    The universe is full of mysterious exploding phenomena that go boom in the dark. One particular type of ephemeral event, called a Fast-Evolving Luminous Transient (FELT), has bewildered astronomers for a decade because of its very brief duration.

    Now, NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope — designed to go hunting for planets across our galaxy — has also been used to catch FELTs in the act and determine their nature. They appear to be a new kind of supernova that gets a brief turbo boost in brightness from its surroundings.

    NASA Kepler Telescope

    Kepler’s ability to precisely sample sudden changes in starlight has allowed astronomers to quickly arrive at this model for explaining FELTs, and rule out alternative explanations.

    Researchers conclude that the source of the flash is from a star after it collapses to explode as a supernova. The big difference is that the star is cocooned inside one or more shells of gas and dust. When the tsunami of explosive energy from the blast slams into the shell, most of the kinetic energy is immediately converted to light. The burst of radiation lasts for only a few days — one-tenth the duration of a typical supernova explosion.

    Over the past decade several FELTs have been discovered with timescales and luminosities not easily explained by traditional supernova models. And, only a few FELTs have been seen in sky surveys because they are so brief. Unlike Kepler, which collects data on a patch of sky every 30 minutes, most other telescopes look every few days. Therefore they often slip through undetected or with only one or two measurements, making understanding the physics of these explosions tricky.

    In the absence of more data, there have been a variety of theories to explain FELTs: the afterglow of a gamma-ray burst, a supernova boosted by a magnetar (neutron star with a powerful magnetic field), or a failed Type Ia supernova.

    Then along came Kepler with its precise, continuous measurements that allowed astronomers to record more details of the FELT event. “We collected an awesome light curve,” said Armin Rest of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. “We were able to constrain the mechanism and the properties of the blast. We could exclude alternate theories and arrive at the dense-shell model explanation. This is a new way for massive stars to die and distribute material back into space.

    “With Kepler, we are now really able to connect the models with the data,” he continued. “Kepler just makes all the difference here. When I first saw the Kepler data, and realized how short this transient is, my jaw dropped. I said, ‘Oh wow!'”

    “The fact that Kepler completely captured the rapid evolution really constrains the exotic ways in which stars die. The wealth of data allowed us to disentangle the physical properties of the phantom blast, such as how much material the star expelled at the end of its life and the hypersonic speed of the explosion. This is the first time that we can test FELT models to a high degree of accuracy and really connect theory to observations,” said David Khatami of the University of California at Berkeley.

    This discovery is an unexpected spinoff of Kepler’s unique capability to sample changes in starlight continuously for several months. This capability is needed for Kepler to discover extrasolar planets that briefly pass in front of their host stars, temporarily dimming starlight by a small percent.

    The Kepler observations indicate that the star ejected the shell less than a year before it went supernova. This gives insight into the poorly understood death throes of stars — the FELTs apparently come from stars that undergo “near-death experiences” just before dying, belching out shells of matter in mini-eruptions before exploding entirely.

    The science team’s study appears in the March 26, 2018 online issue of Nature Astronomy.

    Rest says the next steps will be to find more of these objects in the ongoing K2 mission, or in the next mission of that kind, TESS. This will allow astronomers to start a follow-up campaign spanning different wavelength regimes, which constrains the nature and physics of this new kind of explosion.

    NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California, manages the Kepler and K2 missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. operates the flight system with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, archives, hosts, and distributes Kepler science data. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, in Washington, D.C.

    See the full article here .

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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 11:45 am on March 26, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Kepler Beyond Planets: Finding Exploding Stars, , , NASA Kepler K2,   

    From JPL-Caltech- “Kepler Beyond Planets: Finding Exploding Stars” 

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    JPL-Caltech

    March 26, 2018
    Calla Cofield
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-1821
    calla.e.cofield@jpl.nasa.gov

    Alison Hawkes
    Ames Research Center, California’s Silicon Valley
    650-604-0281
    alison.j.hawkesbak@nasa.gov

    Written by Elizabeth Landau
    NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program

    1
    A new study describes the most extreme known example of a “fast-evolving luminous transient” (FELT) supernova.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    Astronomer Ed Shaya was in his office looking at data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope in 2012 when he noticed something unusual: The light from a galaxy had quickly brightened by 10 percent. The sudden bump in light got Shaya instantly excited, but also nervous. The effect could be explained by the massive explosion of a star — a supernova! — or, more troublingly, a computer error.

    “I just remember on that day, not knowing whether I should believe it or not,” he remembers. Rather than celebrate, he thought, “Did I make a mistake? Am I doing this all wrong?”


    This animation shows a kind of stellar explosion called a Fast-Evolving Luminous Transient. In this case, a giant star “burps” out a shell of gas and dust about a year before exploding. Most of the energy from the supernova turns into light when it hits this previously ejected material, resulting in a short, but brilliant burst of radiation. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Stellar explosions forge and distribute materials that make up the world in which we live, and also hold clues to how fast the universe is expanding. By understanding supernovae, scientists can unlock mysteries that are key to what we are made of and the fate of our universe. But to get the full picture, scientists must observe supernovae from a variety of perspectives, especially in the first moments of the explosion. That’s really difficult — there’s no telling when or where a supernova might happen next.

    A small group of astronomers, including Shaya, realized Kepler could offer a new technique for supernova-hunting. Launched in 2009, Kepler is best known for having discovered thousands of exoplanets. But as a telescope that stares at single patches of space for long periods of time, it can capture a vast trove of other cosmic treasures –especially the kind that change rapidly or pop in and out of view, like supernovae.

    “Kepler opened up a new way of looking at the sky,” said Jessie Dotson, Kepler’s project scientist, based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “It was designed to do one thing really well, which was to find planets around other stars. In order to do that, it had to deliver high-precision, continuous data, which has been valuable for other areas of astronomy.”

    Originally, Shaya and colleagues were looking for active galactic nuclei in their Kepler data. An active galactic nucleus is an extremely bright area at the center of a galaxy where a voracious black hole is surrounded by a disk of hot gas. They had thought about searching for supernovae, but since supernovae are such rare events, they didn’t mention it in their proposal. “It was too iffy,” Shaya said.

    Unsure if the supernova signal he found was real, Shaya and his University of Maryland colleague Robert Olling spent months developing software to better calibrate Kepler data, taking into account variations in temperature and pointing of the instrument. Still, the supernova signal persisted. In fact, they found five more supernovae in their Kepler sample of more than 400 galaxies. When Olling showed one of the signals to Armin Rest, who is now an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltlimore, Rest’s jaw dropped. “I started to drool,” he said. The door had opened to a new way of tracking and understanding stellar explosions.

    Today, these astronomers are part of the Kepler Extra-Galactic Survey, a collaboration between seven scientists in the United States, Australia and Chile looking for supernovae and active galactic nuclei to explore the physics of our universe. To date, they have found more than 20 supernovae using data from the Kepler spacecraft, including an exotic type reported by Rest in a new study in Nature Astronomy. Many more are currently being recorded by Kepler’s ongoing observations.

    “We have some of the best-understood supernovae,” said Brad Tucker, astronomer at the Mt. Stromlo Observatory at the Australian National University, who is part of the Kepler Extra-Galactic Survey.


    This animation shows the explosion of a white dwarf, an extremely dense remnant of a star that can no longer burn nuclear fuel at its core. In this “type Ia” supernova, white dwarf’s gravity steals material away from a nearby stellar companion. When the white dwarf reaches an estimated 1.4 times the current mass of the Sun, it can no longer sustain its own weight, and blows up. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Why do we care about supernovae?

    A longstanding mystery in astrophysics is how and why stars explode in different ways. One kind of supernova happens when a dense, dead star called a white dwarf explodes. A second kind happens when a single gigantic star nears the end of its life, and its core can no longer withstand the gravitational forces acting on it. The details of these general categories are still being worked out.

    The first kind, called “type Ia” (pronounced as “one a”) is special because the intrinsic brightness of each of these supernovae is almost the same. Astronomers have used this standard property to measure the expansion of the universe and found the more distant supernovae were less bright than expected. This indicated they were farther away than scientists had thought, as the light had become stretched out over expanding space. This proved that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate and earned those researchers the Nobel Prize in 2011. The leading theory is that a mysterious force called “dark energy” is pushing everything in the universe apart from everything else, faster and faster.

    But as astronomers find more and more examples of type Ia explosions, including with Kepler, they realize not all are created equal. While some of these supernovae happen when a white dwarf robs its companion of too much matter, others are the result of two white dwarfs merging. In fact, the white dwarf mergers may be more common. More supernova research with Kepler will help astronomers on a quest to find out if different type Ia mechanisms result in some supernovae being brighter than others — which would throw a wrench into how they are used to measure the universe’s expansion.

    “To get a better idea of constraining dark energy, we have to understand better how these type Ia supernovae are formed,” Rest said.


    This animation shows the merger of two white dwarfs. A white dwarf is an extremely dense remnant of a star that can no longer burn nuclear fuel at its core. This is another way that a “type Ia” supernova occurs. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Another kind of supernova, the “core collapse” variety, happens when a massive star ends its life in an explosion. This includes “Type II” supernovae. These supernovae have a characteristic shockwave called the “shock breakout,” which was captured for the first time in optical light by Kepler. The Kepler Extra-Galactic Survey team, led by team member Peter Garnavich, an astrophysics professor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, spotted this shock breakout in 2011 Kepler data from a supernova called KSN 2011d, an explosion from a star roughly 500 times the size of our Sun. Surprisingly, the team did not find a shock breakout in a smaller type II supernova called KSN 2011a, whose star was 300 times the size of the Sun — but instead found the supernova nestled in a layer of dust, suggesting that there is diversity in type II stellar explosions, too.

    Kepler data have revealed other mysteries about supernovae. The new study led by Rest in Nature Astronomy describes a supernova from data captured by Kepler’s extended mission, called K2, that reaches its peak brightness in just a little over two days, about 10 times less than others take. It is the most extreme known example of a “fast-evolving luminous transient” (FELT) supernova. FELTs are about as bright as the type Ia variety, but rise in less than 10 days and fade in about 30. It is possible that the star spewed out a dense shell of gas about a year before the explosion, and when the supernova happened, ejected material hit the shell. The energy released in that collision would explain the quick brightening.

    Why Kepler?

    Telescopes on Earth offer a lot of information about exploding stars, but only over short periods of time — and only when the Sun goes down and the sky is clear – so it’s hard to document the “before” and “after” effects of these explosions. Kepler, on the other hand, offers astronomers the rare opportunity to monitor single patches of sky continuously for months, like a car’s dashboard camera that is always recording. In fact, the primary Kepler mission, which ran from 2009 to 2013, delivered four years of observations of the same field of view, snapping a picture about every 30 minutes. In the extended K2 mission, the telescope is holding its gaze steady for up to about three months.


    This animation shows a gigantic star exploding in a “core collapse” supernova. As molecules fuse inside the star, eventually the star can’t support its own weight anymore. Gravity makes the star collapse on itself. Core collapse supernovae are called type Ib, Ic, or II depending on the chemical elements present. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    With ground-based telescopes, astronomers can tell the supernova’s color and how it changes with time, which lets them figure out what chemicals are present in the explosion. The supernova’s composition helps determine the type of star that exploded. Kepler, on the other hand, reveals how and why the star explodes, and the details of how the explosion progresses. Using the two datasets together, astronomers can get fuller pictures of supernovae behavior than ever before.

    Kepler mission planners revived the telescope in 2013, after the malfunction of the second of its four reaction wheels — devices that help control the orientation of the spacecraft. In the configuration called K2, it needs to rotate every three months or so — marking observing “campaigns.” Members of the Kepler Extra-Galactic Survey made the case that in the K2 mission, Kepler could still monitor supernovae and other exotic, distant astrophysical objects, in addition to exoplanets.

    The possibilities were so exciting that the Kepler team devised two K2 observing campaigns especially useful for coordinating supernovae studies with ground-based telescopes. Campaign 16, which began on Dec. 7, 2017, and ended Feb. 25, 2018,included 9,000 galaxies. There are about 14,000 in Campaign 17, which is just beginning now. In both campaigns, Kepler faces in the direction of Earth so that observers on the ground can see the same patch of sky as the spacecraft. The campaigns have excited a community of researchers who can advantage of this rare coordination between Kepler and telescopes on the ground.

    3
    Infographic

    A recent possible sighting got astronomers riled up on Super Bowl Sunday this year, even if they weren’t into the game. On that “super” day, the All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASASSN) reported a supernova in the same nearby galaxy Kepler was monitoring. This is just one of many candidate events that scientists are excited to follow up on and perhaps use to better understand the secrets of the universe.

    A few more supernovae may come from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, (TESS) which is expected to launch on April 16. In the meantime, scientists will have a lot of work ahead of them once they receive the full dataset from K2’s supernova-focused campaigns.

    “It will be a treasure trove of supernova information for years to come,” Tucker said.

    Ames manages the Kepler and K2 missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation operates the flight system with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

    For more information about the Kepler mission, visit:

    https://www.nasa.gov/kepler

    See the full article here .

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    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 10:33 pm on November 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , NASA Kepler K2, Newly Discovered Twin Planets Could Solve Puffy Planet Mystery, University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy   

    From Keck: “Newly Discovered Twin Planets Could Solve Puffy Planet Mystery” 

    Keck Observatory

    Keck Observatory.
    Keck, with Subaru and IRTF (NASA Infrared Telescope Facility). Vadim Kurland

    Keck Observatory

    November 27, 2017
    Sam Grunblatt
    skg3@hawaii.edu
    Cell: 845-430-4603

    Dr. Daniel Huber
    huberd@hawaii.edu
    Office: 808-956-8573

    Dr. Roy Gal
    Media Contact
    Office: 808-956-6235
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    1
    Upper left: Schematic of the K2-132 system on the main sequence. Lower left: Schematic of the K2-132 system now. The host star has become redder and larger, irradiating the planet more and thus causing it to expand. Sizes not to scale. Main panel: Gas giant planet K2-132b expands as its host star evolves into a red giant. The energy from the host star is transferred from the planet’s surface to its deep interior, causing turbulence and deep mixing in the planetary atmosphere. The planet orbits its star every nine days and is located about 2000 light years away from us in the constellation Virgo.
    Hot Jupiters. Credit: KAREN TERAMURA, UH ©IFA/Hawaii.

    Since astronomers first measured the size of an extrasolar planet seventeen years ago, they have struggled to answer the question: how did the largest planets get to be so large?

    Thanks to the recent discovery of twin planets by a University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy team led by graduate student Samuel Grunblatt, scientists are getting closer to an answer.

    Gas giant planets are primarily made out of hydrogen and helium, and are at least four times the diameter of Earth. Gas giant planets that orbit scorchingly close to their host stars are known as “hot Jupiters.” These planets have masses similar to Jupiter and Saturn, but tend to be much larger – some are puffed up to sizes even larger than the smallest stars.

    The unusually large sizes of these planets are likely related to heat flowing in and out of their atmospheres, and several theories have been developed to explain this process. “However, since we don’t have millions of years to see how a particular planetary system evolves, planet inflation theories have been difficult to prove or disprove,” said Grunblatt.

    To solve this issue, Grunblatt searched through data collected by NASA’s K2 Mission to hunt for hot Jupiters orbiting red giant stars. These stars, which are in the late stages of their lives, become themselves significantly larger over their companion planet’s lifetime. Following a theory put forth by Eric Lopez of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, hot Jupiters orbiting red giant stars should be highly inflated if direct energy input from the host star is the dominant process inflating planets.

    The search has now revealed two planets, each orbiting their host star with a period of approximately nine days. Using stellar oscillations to precisely calculate the radii of both the stars and planets, the team found that the planets are 30 percent larger than Jupiter.

    Observations using the W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii also showed that, despite their large sizes, the planets were only half as massive as Jupiter. Remarkably, the two planets are near twins in terms of their orbital periods, radii, and masses.

    Using models to track the evolution of the planets and their stars over time, the team calculated the planets’ efficiency at absorbing heat from the star and transferring it to their deep interiors, causing the whole planet to expand in size and decrease in density. Their findings show that these planets likely needed the increased radiation from the red giant star to inflate, but the amount of radiation absorbed was also lower than expected.

    It is risky to attempt to reach strong conclusions with only two examples. But these results begin to rule out some explanations of planet inflation, and are consistent with a scenario where planets are directly inflated by the heat from their host stars. The mounting scientific evidence seems to suggest that stellar radiation alone can directly alter the size and density of a planet.

    Our own Sun will eventually become a red giant star, so it’s important to quantify the effect its evolution will have on the rest of the Solar System. “Studying how stellar evolution affects planets is a new frontier, both in other solar systems as well as our own,” said Grunblatt. “With a better idea of how planets respond to these changes, we can start to determine how the Sun’s evolution will affect the atmosphere, oceans, and life here on Earth.”

    The search for gas giant planets around red giant stars continues since additional systems could conclusively distinguish between planet inflation scenarios. Grunblatt and his team have been awarded time with the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope to measure the sizes of these twin planets more accurately. In addition, the search for planets around red giants with the NASA K2 Mission will continue for at least another year, and NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), launching in 2018, will observe hundreds of thousands of red giants across the entire sky.

    Seeing double with K2: Testing re-inflation with two remarkably similar planets orbiting red giant branch stars. published in November 27th edition of The Astronomical Journal.

    See the full article here .

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    The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrometer and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems. Keck Observatory is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

    Today Keck Observatory is supported by both public funding sources and private philanthropy. As a 501(c)3, the organization is managed by the California Association for Research in Astronomy (CARA), whose Board of Directors includes representatives from the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, with liaisons to the board from NASA and the Keck Foundation.
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  • richardmitnick 1:55 pm on August 31, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA Kepler K2, What Does Kepler Have Its Eye On?   

    From Kepler: “What Does Kepler Have Its Eye On?” 

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    NASA Kepler Telescope
    NASA/Kepler

    Aug. 31, 2017
    Editor: Michele Johnson

    1

    Now in the fifteenth observing campaign of its K2 extended mission, the Kepler Space Telescope is studying more than 23,000 objects located in the direction of the constellation Scorpius. The cartoon illustrates some of the objects of interest that Kepler is observing from Aug. 23 to Nov. 20.

    In this swath of sky, called Field 15, Kepler will monitor a variety of astronomical sources of light, including faraway galaxies, star clusters, planetary systems and brown dwarfs. Closer to home, comets traveling from the outer reaches of our solar system on their orbital dance with the sun, and occupants of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, will captivate the gaze of the multipurpose planet-hunter.

    One particularly interesting object is called GW Librae, a binary star system composed of a pulsating white dwarf and a brown dwarf. In this system, the strong gravity of the white dwarf distorts the brown dwarf and strips away gases from its outer layers. The build up of those gases on the white dwarf causes irregular and significant increases in brightness, and may eventually trigger a supernova explosion that will destroy the system. Scientists will study the brightness changes caused by the duo’s tumultuous tango to better understand the mechanisms that ignite these titanic explosions.

    Another system of interest previously discovered by the K2 mission is K2-38. In this planetary system, two super-Earth-size planets orbit a bright sun-like star approximately 600 light-years from Earth. Both planets orbit very close to their star, making them inhospitable for life–stick figure or otherwise–as we know it. The additional observations of the K2 Mission Field 15 will help scientists learn more about the characteristics of the star and enable a search for additional planets in the system.

    In addition, Kepler will observe three dozen solar system objects, and will also monitor more than three thousand faraway galaxies for signs of exploding stars or supernovae.

    Since May 2014, the Kepler spacecraft has been operating in its second mission called K2. Continuing the search for planets beyond the solar system or exoplanets, the K2 mission expands the scope of study to include notable star clusters, such as the Pleiades and Hyades; young and old stars, such as Aldebaran; distant active galaxies and supernovae.

    Unlike its predecessor, the K2 mission studies a different region of the sky known as the ecliptic plane. This is the plane in which Earth and the other planets and moons of our solar system travel on their annual trek around the sun. Along the ecliptic, 19 different fields of view have been identified for scientific investigation.

    See the full article here .

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    NASA’s Ames Research Center manages the Kepler and K2 missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation operates the flight system with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

    The loss of a second of the four reaction wheels on board the Kepler spacecraft in May 2013 brought an end to Kepler’s four plus year science mission to continuously monitor more than 150,000 stars to search for transiting exoplanets. Developed over the months following this failure, the K2 mission represents a new concept for spacecraft operations that enables continued scientific observations with the Kepler space telescope. K2 became fully operational in June 2014 and is expected to continue operating until 2017 or 2018.

    NASA image

    NASA JPL Icon

     
  • richardmitnick 9:33 pm on July 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , EPIC 228813918 b, NASA Kepler K2,   

    From Universe Today: “Earth-Sized Planet Takes Just Four Hours to Orbit its Star” 

    universe-today

    Universe Today

    21 July 2017
    Matt Williams

    1
    Using data obtained by Kepler and numerous observatories around the world, an international team has found a Super-Earth that orbits its red dwarf star in just over 4 hours. Credit: M. Weiss/CfA

    The Kepler space observatory has made some interesting finds since it began its mission back in March of 2009.

    NASA/Kepler Telescope

    Even after the mission suffered the loss of two reaction wheels, it has continued to make discoveries as part of its K2 mission. All told, the Kepler and K2 missions have detected a total of 5,106 planetary candidates, and confirmed the existence of 2,493 planets.

    One of the latest finds made using Kepler is EPIC 228813918 b, a terrestrial (i.e. rocky) planet that orbits a red dwarf star some 264 to 355 light years from Earth. This discovery raises some interesting questions, as it is the second time that a planet with an ultra-short orbital period – it completes a single orbit in just 4 hours and 20 minutes – has been found orbiting a red dwarf star.

    The study, which was recently published online [MNRAS], was conducted by an international team of scientists who hail from institutions ranging from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the Tokyo Institute of Technology, and the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC) to observatories and universities from all around the world.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

     
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