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  • richardmitnick 11:14 am on January 11, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA's TESS Rounds Up its First Planets Snares Far-flung Supernovae, NASA/MIT TESS   

    From NASA: “NASA’s TESS Rounds Up its First Planets, Snares Far-flung Supernovae” 

    NASA image
    From NASA

    January 7, 2019
    By Francis Reddy
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    1

    NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has found three confirmed exoplanets, or worlds beyond our solar system, in its first three months of observations.

    NASA/MIT TESS

    The mission’s sensitive cameras also captured 100 short-lived changes — most of them likely stellar outbursts — in the same region of the sky. They include six supernova explosions whose brightening light was recorded by TESS even before the outbursts were discovered by ground-based telescopes.

    The new discoveries show that TESS is delivering on its goal of discovering planets around nearby bright stars. Using ground-based telescopes, astronomers are now conducting follow-up observations on more than 280 TESS exoplanet candidates.


    Zoom into the first sky sector observed by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and learn more about the new worlds it has discovered. Credit: NASA/MIT/TESS

    2
    Depiction
    The first confirmed discovery is a world called Pi Mensae c about twice Earth’s size. Every six days, the new planet orbits the star Pi Mensae, located about 60 light-years away and visible to the unaided eye in the southern constellation Mensa. The bright star Pi Mensae is similar to the Sun in mass and size.

    “This star was already known to host a planet, called Pi Mensae b, which is about 10 times the mass of Jupiter and follows a long and very eccentric orbit,” said Chelsea Huang, a Juan Carlos Torres Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research (MKI) in Cambridge. “In contrast, the new planet, called Pi Mensae c, has a circular orbit close to the star, and these orbital differences will prove key to understanding how this unusual system formed.”

    3
    Depiction
    Next is LHS 3884b, a rocky planet about 1.3 times Earth’s size located about 49 light-years away in the constellation Indus, making it among the closest transiting exoplanets known. The star is a cool M-type dwarf star about one-fifth the size of our Sun. Completing an orbit every 11 hours, the planet lies so close to its star that some of its rocky surface on the daytime side may form pools of molten lava.

    The third — and possibly fourth — planets orbit HD 21749, a K-type star about 80 percent the Sun’s mass and located 53 light-years away in the southern constellation Reticulum.

    The confirmed planet, HD 21749b, is about three times Earth’s size and 23 times its mass, orbits every 36 days, and has a surface temperature around 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius). “This planet has a greater density than Neptune, but it isn’t rocky. It could be a water planet or have some other type of substantial atmosphere,” explained Diana Dragomir, a Hubble Fellow at MKI and lead author of a paper describing the find. It is the longest-period transiting planet within 100 light-years of the solar system, and it has the coolest surface temperature of a transiting exoplanet around a star brighter than 10th magnitude, or about 25 times fainter than the limit of unaided human vision.

    What’s even more exciting are hints the system holds a second candidate planet about the size of Earth that orbits the star every eight days. If confirmed, it could be the smallest TESS planet to date.

    TESS’s four cameras, designed and built by MKI and MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts, spend nearly a month monitoring each observing sector, a single swath of the sky measuring 24 by 96 degrees. The primary aim is to look for exoplanet transits, which occur when a planet passes in front of its host star as viewed from TESS’s perspective. This causes a regular dip in the measured brightness of the star that signals a planet’s presence.

    In its primary two-year mission, TESS will observe nearly the whole sky, providing a rich catalog of worlds around nearby stars. Their proximity to Earth will enable detailed characterization of the planets through follow-up observations from space- and ground-based telescopes.

    But in its month-long stare into each sector, TESS records many additional phenomena, including comets, asteroids, flare stars, eclipsing binaries, white dwarf stars and supernovae, resulting in an astronomical treasure trove.


    NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) recorded more than 100 short-lived changes – most of them likely stellar outbursts of various types – in its first observing sector. Six of these events, highlighted in this movie, are supernovae – exploding stars – located in distant galaxies. Credit: NASA/MIT/TESS

    In the first TESS sector alone, observed between July 25 and Aug. 22, 2018, the mission caught dozens of short-lived, or transient, events, including images of six supernovae in distant galaxies that were later seen by ground-based telescopes.

    “Some of the most interesting science occurs in the early days of a supernova, which has been very difficult to observe before TESS,” said Michael Fausnaugh, a TESS researcher at MKI. “NASA’s Kepler space telescope caught six of these events as they brightened during its first four years of operations. TESS found as many in its first month.”

    These early observations hold the key to understanding a class of supernovae that serve as an important yardstick for cosmological studies. Type Ia supernovae form through two channels. One involves the merger of two orbiting white dwarfs, compact remnants of stars like the Sun. The other occurs in systems where a white dwarf draws gas from a normal star, gradually gaining mass until it becomes unstable and explodes. Astronomers don’t know which scenario is more common, but TESS could detect modifications to the early light of the explosion caused by the presence of a stellar companion.

    All science data from the first two TESS observation sectors were recently released to the scientific community through the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST) at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

    More than a million TESS images were downloaded from MAST in the first few days,” said Thomas Barclay, a TESS researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “The astronomical community’s reaction to the early data release showed us that the world is ready to jump in and add to the mission’s scientific bounty.

    George Ricker, the mission’s principal investigator at MKI, said that TESS’s cameras and spacecraft were performing superbly. “We’re only halfway through TESS’s first year of operations, and the data floodgates are just beginning to open,” he said. “When the full set of observations of more than 300 million stars and galaxies collected in the two-year prime mission are scrutinized by astronomers worldwide, TESS may well have discovered as many as 10,000 planets, in addition to hundreds of supernovae and other explosive stellar and extragalactic transients.”

    TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.

    Media contact:

    Elizabeth Landau
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    elandau@jpl.nasa.gov
    (818) 359-3241

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    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.

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  • richardmitnick 12:24 pm on January 8, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A new planet HD 21749b, , , , , , NASA/MIT TESS   

    From MIT News: “TESS discovers its third new planet, with longest orbit yet” 

    MIT News
    MIT Widget

    From MIT News

    January 7, 2019
    Jennifer Chu

    1
    NASA’s TESS mission, which will survey the entire sky over the next two years, has already discovered three new exoplanets around nearby stars. Image: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, edited by MIT News.

    2
    Using the first three months of publicly available data from NASA’s TESS mission, scientists at MIT and elsewhere have confirmed a new planet, HD 21749b — the third small planet that TESS has so far discovered. HD 21749b orbits a star, about the size of the sun, 53 light years away. Image: NASA/MIT/TESS

    Measurements indicate a dense, gaseous, “sub-Neptune” world, three times the size of Earth.

    NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, TESS, has discovered a third small planet outside our solar system, scientists announced this week at the annual American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle.

    The new planet, named HD 21749b, orbits a bright, nearby dwarf star about 53 light years away, in the constellation Reticulum, and appears to have the longest orbital period of the three planets so far identified by TESS. HD 21749b journeys around its star in a relatively leisurely 36 days, compared to the two other planets — Pi Mensae b, a “super-Earth” with a 6.3-day orbit, and LHS 3844b, a rocky world that speeds around its star in just 11 hours. All three planets were discovered in the first three months of TESS observations.

    The surface of the new planet is likely around 300 degrees Fahrenheit — relatively cool, given its proximity to its star, which is almost as bright as the sun.

    “It’s the coolest small planet that we know of around a star this bright,” says Diana Dragomir, a postdoc in MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, who led the new discovery. “We know a lot about atmospheres of hot planets, but because it’s very hard to find small planets that orbit farther from their stars, and are therefore cooler, we haven’t been able to learn much about these smaller, cooler planets. But here we were lucky, and caught this one, and can now study it in more detail.”

    The planet is about three times the size of Earth, which puts it in the category of a “sub-Neptune.” Surprisingly, it is also a whopping 23 times as massive as the Earth. But it is unlikely that the planet is rocky and therefore habitable; it’s more likely made of gas, of a kind that is much more dense than the atmospheres of either Neptune or Uranus.

    “We think this planet wouldn’t be as gaseous as Neptune or Uranus, which are mostly hydrogen and really puffy,” Dragomir says. “The planet likely has a density of water, or a thick atmosphere.”

    Serendipitously, the researchers have also detected evidence of a second planet, though not yet confirmed, in the same planetary system, with a shorter, 7.8-day orbit. If it is confirmed as a planet, it could be the first Earth-sized planet discovered by TESS.

    In addition to presenting their results at the AAS meeting, the researchers have submitted a paper to The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    “Something there”

    Since it launched in April 2018, TESS, an MIT-led mission, has been monitoring the sky, sector by sector, for momentary dips in the light of about 200,000 nearby stars. Such dips likely represent a planet passing in front of that star.

    The satellite trains its four onboard cameras on each sector for 27 days, taking in light from the stars in that particular segment before shifting to view the next one. Over its two-year mission, TESS will survey nearly the entire sky by monitoring and piecing together overlapping slices of the night sky. The satellite will spend the first year surveying the sky in the Southern Hemisphere, before swiveling around to take in the Northern Hemisphere sky.

    The mission has released to the public all the data TESS has collected so far from the first three of the 13 sectors that it will monitor in the southern sky. For their new analysis, the researchers looked through this data, collected between July 25 and Oct. 14.

    Within the sector 1 data, Dragomir identified a single transit, or dip, in the light from the star HD 21749. As the satellite only collects data from a sector for 27 days, it’s difficult to identify planets with orbits longer than that time period; by the time a planet passes around again, the satellite may have shifted to view another slice of the sky.

    To complicate matters, the star itself is relatively active, and Dragomir wasn’t sure if the single transit she spotted was a result of a passing planet or a blip in stellar activity. So she consulted a second dataset, collected by the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher, or HARPS, a high-precision spectrograph installed on a large ground-based telescope in Chile, which identifies exoplanets by their gravitational tug on their host stars.

    ESO 3.6m telescope & HARPS at Cerro LaSilla, Chile, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.


    ESO/HARPS at La Silla

    “They had looked at this star system a decade ago and never announced anything because they weren’t sure if they were looking at a planet versus the activity of the star,” Dragomir says. “But we had this one transit, and knew something was there.”

    Stellar detectives

    When the researchers looked through the HARPS data, they discovered a repeating signal emanating from HD 21749 every 36 days. From this, they estimated that, if they indeed had seen a transit in the TESS data from sector 1, then another transit should appear 36 days later, in data from sector 3. When that data became publicly available, a momentary glitch created a gap in the data just at the time when Dragomir expected the second transit to occur.

    “Because there was an interruption in data around that time, we initially didn’t see a second transit, and were pretty disappointed,” Dragomir recalls. “But we re-extracted the data and zoomed in to look more carefully, and found what looked like the end of a transit.”

    She and her colleagues compared the pattern to the first full transit they had originally discovered, and found a near perfect match — an indication that the planet passed again in front of its star, in a 36-day orbit.

    “There was quite some detective work involved, and the right people were there at the right time,” Dragomir says. “But we were lucky and we caught the signals, and they were really clear.”

    They also used data from the Planet Finder Spectrograph, an instrument installed on the Magellan Telescope in Chile, to further validate their findings and constrain the planet’s mass and orbit.

    Carnegie Planet Finder Spectrograph on the Magellan Clay telescope at Las Campanas, Chile, Altitude 2,380 m (7,810 ft)

    Las Campanas Clay Magellan telescope, located at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory, Chile, approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi) northeast of the city of La Serena, over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high

    Once TESS has completed its two-year monitoring of the entire sky, the science team has committed to delivering information on 50 small planets less than four times the size of Earth to the astronomy community for further follow-up, either with ground-based telescopes or the future James Webb Space Telescope.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    “We’ve confirmed three planets so far, and there are so many more that are just waiting for telescope and people time to be confirmed,” Dragomir says. “So it’s going really well, and TESS is already helping us to learn about the diversity of these small planets.”

    TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by Goddard. Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; MIT Lincoln Laboratory; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. More than a dozen universities, research institutes, and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

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    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

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  • richardmitnick 12:22 pm on January 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ‘Following the Water’, , , , , Fingerprinting Life, , NASA/MIT TESS, , , The habitable zone serves as a target selection tool, , , UCO Lick Observatory Mt Hamilton in San Jose California, UCR’s Alternative Earths Astrobiology Center   

    From UC Riverside: “Are We Alone?” 

    UC Riverside bloc

    From UC Riverside

    May 24, 2018
    Sarah Nightingale

    1
    Illustration by The Brave Union

    Forty years ago, the Voyager 2 spacecraft launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral. Over the next decade, it swept across the solar system, sending back images of Jupiter’s volcanoes, Saturn’s rings, and for the first time, the icy atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune.

    NASA/Voyager 2

    2
    UCR’s Tim Lyons, left, and Stephen Kane are some of the only researchers in the world using Earth’s history as a guide to finding life in outer space. (Photo by Kurt Miller)

    The mission was more than enough to encourage Stephen Kane, a teenager growing up in Australia, to study planetary science in college. By the time he’d graduated, scientists had detected the first planet outside our solar system, known as an exoplanet, inspiring him to join the hunt and look for more.

    Over the past two decades, Kane, now an associate professor of planetary astrophysics at UC Riverside, has discovered hundreds of alien planets. At first, he focused on identifying giant Jupiter-like planets, which he describes as “low-hanging fruit” due to their large sizes. But in 2011, the Kepler Space Telescope identified the first rocky planet — Kepler 10b. Unlike gas giants such as Jupiter, rocky planets could potentially harbor life.

    NASA/Kepler Telescope

    With the discovery of more Earth-sized planets on the horizon, Kane realized that astrophysicists would struggle to understand the data they were receiving about terrestrial planets and their atmospheres.

    “During the course of the ongoing Kepler mission, I sought out planetary and Earth scientists because they’ve spent hundreds of years studying the solar system and how the Earth’s atmosphere has been shaped by biological and geophysical processes, so they have a lot to bring to the table,” Kane said.

    In 2017, Kane formalized that collaboration by joining an interdisciplinary research group led by Tim Lyons, a distinguished professor of biogeochemistry in the Department of Earth Sciences and director of UCR’s Alternative Earths Astrobiology Center. Backed by roughly $7.5 million from NASA, the center, one of only a handful like it in the world, brings together geochemists, biologists, planetary scientists, and astrophysicists from UCR and partner institutions to search for life on distant worlds using a template defined by the only known planet with life: Earth.

    3
    Astrobiology researchers study areas on Earth that hold evidence of ancient life, such as these stromatolites at the Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve in Shark Bay, Australia. The rocky, dome-shaped structures formed in shallow water through the trapping of sedimentary grains by communities of microorganisms. (Photo by Mark Boyle)

    Fingerprinting Life

    Since its formation more than 4.5 billion years ago, Earth has undergone immense periods of geological and biological change.

    When the first life appeared — in the form of simple microbes — the sun was fainter, there were no continents, and there was no oxygen in the atmosphere. A new kind of life emerged around 2.7 billion years ago: photosynthetic bacteria that use the sun’s energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into food and oxygen gas. Multicellular life evolved from those bacteria, followed by more familiar lifeforms: fish about 530 million years ago, land plants 470 million years ago, and mammals 200 million years ago.

    “There are periods in the Earth’s past that are as different from one another as Earth is from an exoplanet,” Lyons said. “That is the concept of alternative Earths. You can slice the Earth’s history into chapters, pages, and even paragraphs, and there has been life evolving, thriving, surviving, and dying with each step. If we know what kind of atmospheres were present during the early stages of life on Earth, and their relationships to the evolving continents and oceans, we can look for similar signposts in our search for life on exoplanets.”

    While it might seem impossible to characterize ancient oceans and atmospheres, scientists can glean hints by studying rocks formed billions of years ago.

    “The chemical compositions of rocks are determined by the chemistry of the oceans and their life, and many of the gases in the atmosphere, through exchange with the oceans, are controlled by the same processes,” Lyons said. “These atmospheric fingerprints of life in the underlying oceans, or biosignatures, can be used as markers of life on other planets light years away.”

    The search for alien biosignatures typically centers on the gases produced by living creatures on Earth because they’re the only examples scientists have to work with. But Earth’s many chapters of inhabitation reveal the great number of possible gas combinations. Oxygen gas, ozone, and methane in a planet’s biosignature could all indicate the presence of life — and seeing them together could present an even stronger argument.

    The center’s search for life is different from the hunt for intelligent life. While those researchers probe for signs of alien civilizations, such as radio waves or powerful lasers, Lyons’ team is essentially looking for the byproducts of simple lifeforms.

    “As we’re exploring exoplanets, what we’re really trying to do is characterize their atmospheres,” he said. “If we see certain profiles of gases, then we may be detecting microbial waste products that are accumulating in the atmosphere.”

    The UCR team must also account for processes that produce the same gases without contributions from life, a phenomenon researchers call false positives. For example, a planetary atmosphere with abundant oxygen would be a promising biosignature, but that evidence could be misleading without fully addressing where it came from. Similarly, methane is a key biosignature, but there are many nonbiological ways to produce this gas on Earth. These distinctions require careful considerations of many factors, including seasonal patterns, tectonic activity, the type of planet and its star, among other data.

    False negatives are another concern, Lyons said. In previous research on ancient organic-rich rocks collected in Western Australia and South Africa, his group showed that about two billion years passed between the moment organisms first started producing oxygen on Earth and when it accumulated at levels high enough to be detectable in the atmosphere. In that scenario, a classic biosignature, oxygen, could be missed.

    “It’s also entirely possible that on some planets oxygen is produced through photosynthesis in pockets in the ocean and you’d never see it in the atmosphere,” Lyons said. “We have to be very clever to consider the many possibilities for biosignatures, and Earth’s past gives us many to choose from.”

    3
    Illustration by The Brave Union

    ‘Following the Water’

    With several hundred terrestrial planets confirmed and many more awaiting discovery, the search for life-bearing worlds is an almost overwhelming task.

    Astronomers are narrowing down their search by focusing on habitable zones — the orbital region around stars where it’s neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist on the surface.

    “We know that liquid water is essential for life as we know it, and so we’re beginning our search by looking for planets that are capable of having similar environments to Earth. We call this approach ‘following the water,’” Kane said.

    While the habitable zone serves as a target selection tool, Kane said a planet nestled in this region won’t necessarily show signs of life — or even liquid water. Venus, for example, occupies the inner edge of the Sun’s habitable zone, but its scorching surface temperature has boiled away any liquid water that once existed.

    “We are extremely fortunate to have Venus in our solar system because it reminds us that a planet can be exactly the same size as Earth and still have things go catastrophically wrong,” Kane said.

    Equally important, being in the habitable zone doesn’t mean a planet will boast other factors that make Earth ideal for life. In addition to liquid water, the perfect candidate would have an insulating atmosphere and a protective magnetic field. It would also offer the right chemical ingredients for life and ways of recycling those elements over and over when continents collide, mountains lift up and wear down, and nutrients are swept back to the seas by rivers.

    “People question why we focus so intently on Earth, but the answer is obvious. We only know what we know about life because of what the Earth has given us,” said Lyons, who has spent decades reconstructing the conditions during which life evolved.

    “If I asked you to design a planet with the perfect conditions for life, you would design something just like Earth because it has all of these essential features,” he added. “We are studying how these building blocks have been assembled in different ways during Earth’s history and asking which of them are essential for life, which can be taken away. From that vantage point, we ask how they could be assembled in very different ways on other planets and still sustain life.”

    Kane said a distant planetary system called TRAPPIST-1, which NASA scientists discovered in 2017, could provide clues about the ingredients that are necessary for life.

    A size comparison of the planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system, lined up in order of increasing distance from their host star. The planetary surfaces are portrayed with an artist’s impression of their potential surface features, including water, ice, and atmospheres. NASA

    The TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultracool dwarf, is orbited by seven Earth-size planets (NASA).

    ESO Belgian robotic Trappist National Telescope at Cerro La Silla, Chile


    ESO Belgian robotic Trappist National Telescope at Cerro La Silla, Chile

    Although miniature compared to our own solar system — TRAPPIST-1 would easily fit inside Mercury’s orbit around the sun — it boasts seven planets, three of which are in the habitable zone. However, the planets don’t have moons, and they may not even have atmospheres.

    “We are finding that compact planetary systems orbiting faint stars are much more common than larger systems, so it’s important that we study them and find out if they could have habitable environments,” Kane said.

    4
    An artist’s illustration of the possible surface of TRAPPIST-1f, one of the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system.

    Remote Observations

    At about 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) from Earth, the TRAPPIST-1 system is relatively close, but we’re never going to go there.

    “The fascinating thing about astronomy as a science is that it’s all based on remote observations,” Kane said. “We are trying to squeeze every piece of information we can out of photons that we are receiving from a very distant object.”

    While scientists have studied the atmospheres of several dozen exoplanets, most are too distant to probe with current instruments. That situation is changing. In April, NASA launched its Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, known as TESS, which will seek Earth-sized planets around more than 500,000 nearby stars.

    NASA/MIT TESS

    In May 2020, NASA plans to launch the James Webb Space Telescope, which will perform atmospheric studies of the rocky worlds discovered by TESS.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated

    Like Kepler, TESS detects exoplanets using the transit method, which measures the minute dimming of a star as an orbiting planet passes between it and the Earth.

    Planet transit. NASA/Ames

    Because light also passes through the atmosphere of planets, scientists will use the Webb telescope to identify the blanket of gases surrounding them through a technique called spectroscopy.

    Kane and Lyons are working with NASA to design missions that will directly image exoplanets in ways that will ensure that interdisciplinary teams such as theirs can properly interpret a wide variety of planetary processes.

    “As we design future missions, we must make sure they are equipped with the right instruments to detect biosignatures and geological processes, such as active volcanoes,” Kane said.

    UCR’s astrobiology team is one of only a few groups in the world studying ancient Earth to create a catalog of biosignatures that will inform mission design in NASA’s search for life on distant worlds. With quintillions — think the number of gallons of water in all of our oceans — of potentially habitable planets in the universe, Lyons said he is optimistic that we’ll find signs of life in the future.

    “Just like the Voyager missions were important because of what they taught us about our solar system — from the discovery of Jupiter’s rings to the first close-up glimpses of Uranus and Neptune — the TESS and James Webb missions, and more importantly the next generation of telescopes planned for the coming decades, are very likely to change our understanding of distant space,” Lyons said. And perhaps nestled in those discoveries will be an answer to the most fundamental of all questions, ‘are we alone?’

    Alternative Earths Astrobiology Center

    Founded in 2015

    One of 12 research teams funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, and one of only two using Earth’s history to guide exoplanet exploration

    Awarded $7.5 million over five years to cultivate a “search engine” for life on planets orbiting distant stars using Earth’s evolution over billions of years as a template

    Builds on existing UCR strengths in biogeochemistry, Earth history, and astrophysics

    Unites 66 researchers and staff at 11 institutions around the world, including primary partners led by former UCR graduate students now on the faculty at Yale and Georgia Tech

    4
    A NASA illustration of TESS monitoring stars outside our solar system.

    Through the Looking Glass

    In April, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) Mission launched with the goal of discovering new Earths and super-Earths around nearby stars. As a guest investigator on the TESS Mission, Stephen Kane will use University of California telescopes, including those at the Lick Observatory in Mt. Hamilton to help determine whether candidate exoplanets identified by TESS are actually planets.

    UCSC Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California, Altitude 1,283 m (4,209 ft)

    UCSC Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    The UCO Lick C. Donald Shane telescope is a 120-inch (3.0-meter) reflecting telescope located at the Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California, Altitude 1,283 m (4,209 ft)

    UC Santa Cruz Shelley Wright at the 1-meter Nickel Telescope NIROSETI


    NIROSETI team from left to right Rem Stone UCO Lick Observatory Dan Werthimer UC Berkeley Jérôme Maire U Toronto, Shelley Wright UCSD Patrick Dorval U Toronto Richard Treffers Richard Treffers Starman Systems. (Image by Laurie Hatch)

    By studying the planet mass data obtained from the ground-based telescopes and planet diameter readings from spacecraft observations, Kane will also help determine the overall composition of the newly identified planets.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UC Riverside Campus

    The University of California, Riverside is one of 10 universities within the prestigious University of California system, and the only UC located in Inland Southern California.

    Widely recognized as one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation, UCR’s current enrollment is more than 21,000 students, with a goal of 25,000 students by 2020. The campus is in the midst of a tremendous growth spurt with new and remodeled facilities coming on-line on a regular basis.

    We are located approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. UCR is also within easy driving distance of dozens of major cultural and recreational sites, as well as desert, mountain and coastal destinations.

     
  • richardmitnick 6:25 pm on December 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 1.52-m Telescopio Carlos Sánchez at the Teide Observatory Canaries Spain, MuSCAT2-a powerful 4-color simultaneous camera, , NASA/MIT TESS   

    From National Astronomical Observatory of Japan: “MuSCAT2 to find Earth-like Planets in the TESS Era” 

    NAOJ

    From National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

    December 17, 2018

    1
    Newly Developed simultaneous multi-color camera MuSCAT2 on the 1.52-m Telescopio Carlos Sánchez at the Teide Observatory, Canaries, Spain

    2
    3
    1.52-m Telescopio Carlos Sánchez at the Teide Observatory, Canaries, Spain

    A Japan-Spain team has developed a powerful 4-color simultaneous camera named MuSCAT2 for the 1.52-m Telescopio Carlos Sánchez at the Teide Observatory, Canaries, Spain. The instrument aims to find a large number of transiting exoplanets, including Earth-like habitable planets orbiting stars near the Sun, in collaboration with NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched in April 2018.

    NASA/MIT TESS

    In April 2018, NASA launched a new satellite named Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to discover new exoplanets around stars near the Sun. TESS finds exoplanets by observing planetary transits, a phenomenon in which a planet passes in front of its host star and blocks part of the star’s light.

    Planet transit. NASA/Ames

    Transiting exoplanets are especially valuable targets for exoplanet studies, since they provide information about the true mass, radius, density, orbital obliquity, and atmosphere of such planets.

    However, transiting exoplanet candidates discovered by TESS are not always real planets. An eclipsing binary, a pair of stars orbiting and eclipsing each other, can also produce transit-like signals. For the TESS mission, the false positive rate caused by eclipsing binaries is predicted to be 30-70% depending on the direction observed. Follow up observations can help distinguish actual exoplanets from false positives.

    Multi-color transit observations are one way to separate exoplanets from eclipsing binary stars. This is because in the case of an eclipsing binary, the light coming from the system changes color as it dims, while for an exoplanet transit the light stays the same color as it dims.

    For this reason, an international team, consisting of Japanese researchers from the Astrobiology Center (ABC) and the University of Tokyo and Spanish researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), has developed a 4-color simultaneous camera named MuSCAT2 (2nd generation Multi-color Simultaneous Camera for studying Atmospheres of Transiting exoplanets) on the 1.52-m Telescopio Carlos Sánchez at the Teide Observatory, Canaries, Spain.

    The team will use MuSCAT2 more than 162 nights per year until at least 2022. They will work to confirm a large number of new transiting exoplanets, including Earth-like habitable planets orbiting stars near the Sun, in collaboration with the ongoing TESS mission.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NAOJ

    The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) is an astronomical research organisation comprising several facilities in Japan, as well as an observatory in Hawaii. It was established in 1988 as an amalgamation of three existing research organizations – the Tokyo Astronomical Observatory of the University of Tokyo, International Latitude Observatory of Mizusawa, and a part of Research Institute of Atmospherics of Nagoya University.

    In the 2004 reform of national research organizations, NAOJ became a division of the National Institutes of Natural Sciences.

    NAOJ/Subaru Telescope at Mauna Kea Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level


    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array
    ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array
    sft
    Solar Flare Telescope

    Nobeyama Radio Telescope - Copy
    Nobeyama Radio Observatory

    Nobeyama Solar Radio Telescope Array
    Nobeyama Radio Observatory: Solar

    Misuzawa Station Japan
    Mizusawa VERA Observatory

    NAOJ Okayama Astrophysical Observatory Telescope
    Okayama Astrophysical Observatory

     
  • richardmitnick 9:27 am on October 7, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA/MIT TESS   

    From NASA/MIT TESS: “NASA’s TESS Shares First Science Image in Hunt to Find New Worlds” via Manu Garcia 


    From 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.

    Sept. 17, 2018

    Jeanette Kazmierczak
    jeanette.a.kazmierczak@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    From NASA/MIT TESS

    NASA/MIT TESS

    1
    The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) took this snapshot of the Large Magellanic Cloud (right) and the bright star R Doradus (left) with just a single detector of one of its cameras on Tuesday, Aug. 7. The frame is part of a swath of the southern sky TESS captured in its “first light” science image as part of its initial round of data collection.
    Credits: NASA/MIT/TESS

    NASA’s newest planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), is now providing valuable data to help scientists discover and study exciting new exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system. Part of the data from TESS’ initial science orbit includes a detailed picture of the southern sky taken with all four of the spacecraft’s wide-field cameras. This “first light” science image captures a wealth of stars and other objects, including systems previously known to have exoplanets.

    “In a sea of stars brimming with new worlds, TESS is casting a wide net and will haul in a bounty of promising planets for further study,” said Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This first light science image shows the capabilities of TESS’ cameras, and shows that the mission will realize its incredible potential in our search for another Earth.”

    TESS acquired the image using all four cameras during a 30-minute period on Tuesday, Aug. 7. The black lines in the image are gaps between the camera detectors. The images include parts of a dozen constellations, from Capricornus to Pictor, and both the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, the galaxies nearest to our own. The small bright dot above the Small Magellanic Cloud is a globular cluster — a spherical collection of hundreds of thousands of stars — called NGC 104, also known as 47 Tucanae because of its location in the southern constellation Tucana, the Toucan. Two stars, Beta Gruis and R Doradus, are so bright they saturate an entire column of pixels on the detectors of TESS’s second and fourth cameras, creating long spikes of light.

    “This swath of the sky’s southern hemisphere includes more than a dozen stars we know have transiting planets based on previous studies from ground observatories,” said George Ricker, TESS principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research in Cambridge.

    3
    The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) captured this strip of stars and galaxies in the southern sky during one 30-minute period on Tuesday, Aug. 7. Created by combining the view from all four of its cameras, this is TESS’ “first light,” from the first observing sector that will be used for identifying planets around other stars. Notable features in this swath of the southern sky include the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds and a globular cluster called NGC 104, also known as 47 Tucanae. The brightest stars in the image, Beta Gruis and R Doradus, saturated an entire column of camera detector pixels on the satellite’s second and fourth cameras. Credits: NASA/MIT/TESS

    TESS’s cameras, designed and built by MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts, and the MIT Kavli Institute, monitor large swaths of the sky to look for transits. Transits occur when a planet passes in front of its star as viewed from the satellite’s perspective, causing a regular dip in the star’s brightness.

    Planet transit. NASA/Ames

    TESS will spend two years monitoring 26 such sectors for 27 days each, covering 85 percent of the sky. During its first year of operations, the satellite will study the 13 sectors making up the southern sky. Then TESS will turn to the 13 sectors of the northern sky to carry out a second year-long survey.

    MIT coordinates with Northrop Grumman in Falls Church, Virginia, to schedule science observations. TESS transmits images every 13.7 days, each time it swings closest to Earth. NASA’s Deep Space Network receives and forwards the data to the TESS Payload Operations Center at MIT for initial evaluation and analysis. Full data processing and analysis takes place within the Science Processing and Operations Center pipeline at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, which provides calibrated images and refined light curves that scientists can analyze to find promising exoplanet transit candidates.

    TESS builds on the legacy of NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, which also uses transits to find exoplanets.

    NASA/Kepler Telescope

    TESS’s target stars are 30 to 300 light-years away and about 30 to 100 times brighter than Kepler’s targets, which are 300 to 3,000 light-years away. The brightness of TESS’ targets make them ideal candidates for follow-up study with spectroscopy, the study of how matter and light interact.


    This animation shows how the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will study 85 percent of the sky in 26 sectors. The spacecraft will observe the 13 sectors that make up the southern sky in the first year and the 13 sectors of the northern sky in the second year.
    Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    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 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.

    The James Webb Space Telescope and other space and ground observatories will use spectroscopy to learn more about the planets TESS finds, including their atmospheric compositions, masses and densities.

    TESS has also started observations requested through the TESS Guest Investigator Program, which allows the broader scientific community to conduct research using the satellite.

    “We were very pleased with the number of guest investigator proposals we received, and we competitively selected programs for a wide range of science investigations, from studying distant active galaxies to asteroids in our own solar system,” said Padi Boyd, TESS project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “And of course, lots of exciting exoplanet and star proposals as well. The science community are chomping at the bit to see the amazing data that TESS will produce and the exciting science discoveries for exoplanets and beyond.”

    TESS launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on April 18 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and used a flyby of the Moon on May 17 to head toward its science orbit. TESS started collecting scientific data on July 25 after a period of extensive checks of its instruments.

    TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Dr. George Ricker of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research serves as principal investigator for the mission. Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.

    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.

    NASA image

     
  • richardmitnick 9:33 am on September 22, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , NASA/MIT TESS, NASA/MIT TESS finds 1st two exoplanet candidates during first science orbit, , TESS in excellent health,   

    From NASA Spaceflight: “TESS in excellent health, finds 1st two exoplanet candidates during first science orbit” 

    NASA Spaceflight

    From NASA Spaceflight

    September 20, 2018
    Chris Gebhardt

    1
    The joint NASA / Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, has completed its first science orbit after launch and orbital activations/checkouts. Unsurprisingly given TESS’s wide range of view, a team of scientists have already identified the planet-hunting telescope’s first two exoplanet candidates.
    No image credit.

    The yet-to-be-confirmed exoplanets are located 59.5 light years from Earth in the Pi Mensae system and 49 light years away in the LHS 3844 system.

    TESS’s overall health:

    Following a successful launch on 18 April 2018 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from SLC-40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, TESS was injected into an orbit aligned for a gravity assist maneuver one month later with the Moon to send the telescope into its operational 13.65-day orbit of Earth.

    TESS’s orbit is highly unique, with the trajectory designed so the telescope is in a 2:1 resonance with the Moon at a 90° phase offset at apogee (meaning the telescope maintains a separation from the Moon so the lunar gravity field doesn’t perturb TESS’ orbit but at the same time keeps the orbit stable) to allow the spacecraft to use as little of its maneuvering fuel as possible to achieve a hoped-for 20 year life.

    At the time of launch, mission scientists and operators noted that first light images were expected from TESS in June 2018 following a 60-day commissioning phase.

    While it is not entirely clear what happened after launch, what is known is that the commissioning phase lasted 27 days longer than expected, stretching to the end of July. TESS’ first science and observational campaign began not in June but on 25 July 2018.

    By 7 August, the halfway point in the first science observation period, TESS took what NASA considers to be the ceremonial “first light” images of the telescope’s scientific ventures.

    TESS acquired the image using all four cameras during a 30-minute period on Tuesday, 7 August. The images include parts of a dozen constellations from Capricornus to Pictor, both the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, and the galaxies nearest to our own.

    2
    Ceremonial first light image captured by TESS on 7 August 2018 showing the full Sector 1 image (center) and close-ups of each of the four camera groups (left and right) Credit NASA/MIT/TESS

    “In a sea of stars brimming with new worlds, TESS is casting a wide net and will haul in a bounty of promising planets for further study,” said Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA Headquarters. “This first light science image shows the capabilities of TESS’ cameras and shows that the mission will realize its incredible potential in our search for another Earth.”

    George Ricker, TESS’ principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, added, “This swath of the sky’s southern hemisphere includes more than a dozen stars we know have transiting planets based on previous studies from ground observatories.”

    While TESS orbits Earth every 13.65 days, its data collection phase for each of its 26-planned observation sectors of near-Earth sky lasts for two orbits so the telescope can collect light data from each section for a total of 27.4 days.

    With science operations formerly commencing on 25 July, the first observational campaign stretched to 22 August.

    Unlike some missions which only transmit data back to Earth after observational campaigns end, TESS transmits its data both in the middle and at the end of each campaign when the telescope swings past its perigee (closest orbital approach to Earth).

    On 22 August, after TESS completed its first observation campaign of a section of the Southern Hemisphere sky, the telescope transmitted the second batch of light data to Earth through the Deep Space Network.

    From there, the information was processed and analyzed at NASA’s Science Processing and Operations Center at the Ames Research Center in California – which provided calibrated images and refined light curves for scientists to analyze and find promising exoplanet transit candidates.

    NASA and MIT then made that data available to scientists as they search for the more than 22,000 exoplanets (most of those within a 300 light-year radius of Earth) that TESS is expected to find during the course of its two-year primary mission.

    First TESS exoplanet candidate:

    Given the sheer number of exoplanets TESS is expected to find in the near-Earth neighborhood, it is not surprising that the first observation campaign has already returned potential exoplanet candidates – the first of which was confirmed by NASA via a tweet on Wednesday, 19 September.

    TESS’ first exoplanet candidate is Pi Mensae c – a super-Earth with an orbital period of 6.27 days. According to a draft of the paper announcing the discovery, several methods were used to eliminate the possibility of this being a false detection or the detection of a previously unknown companion star.

    The Pi Mensae system is located 59.5 light years from Earth, and the new exoplanet – if confirmed – would be officially classified Pi Mensae c, the second known exoplanet of the system.

    Exoplanet’s official classifications derive from the name of the star they orbit followed by a lowercase letter indicating the order in which they were discovered in a particular system.

    The order in which exoplanets are discovered does not necessarily match the order (distance from closest to farthest) in which they orbit their parent star.

    Moreover, the lowercase letter designation begins with the letter “b”, not the letter “a”. Thus, the first discovered exoplanet in a particular system will bear the name of its parent star followed by a lowercase “b”.

    Subsequent exoplanets orbiting the same start or stars (as the case may be), regardless of whether they orbit closer to or farther away from the parent star than the first discovered exoplanet will then bear the letters c, d, e, etc.

    3
    NASA/Ames – Wendy Stenzel

    Therefore, confirmation of the new exoplanet candidate in the Pi Mensae system would make the planet Pi Mensae c.

    Pi Mensae b, a superjovian, was discovered on 15 October 2001 using the radial-velocity method of detection via the Anglo-Australian Telescope operated by the Australian Astronomical Observatory at Siding Spring Observatory.

    In the search for exoplanets, two general methods of detection are used – direct observation of a transiting exoplanet that passes between its star and the observation point on or near Earth (the method employed by TESS) and the radial-velocity, or doppler spectroscopy, method of detection which measures the wobble or gravitational tug on a parent star caused by an orbiting planet that does not pass between the star and the observation point on or near Earth.

    Overall, roughly 30% of the total number of known exoplanets have been discovered via the radial-velocity method, with the other 70% being discovered via the transiting method of detection.

    Radial Velocity Method-Las Cumbres Observatory


    Radial velocity Image via SuperWasp http:// http://www.superwasp.org/exoplanets.htm


    Planet transit. NASA/Ames

    Upon Pi Mensae b’s discovery in 2001, the planet was found to be in a highly eccentric 5.89 Earth-year (2,151 day) orbit – coming as close at 1.21 AU and passing as far as 5.54 AU from its star.

    4
    Artist’s depiction of a Super-Juiter orbiting its host star

    With a 1.21 AU periastron, Pi Mensae b passes through its parent star’s habitable zone before arcing out to apastron (which lies farther out than Jupiter’s orbit of our Sun).

    Given the extreme eccentricity and the fact that the planet passes through the habitable zone during each orbit, it would likely have disrupted the orbit of any potentially Earth-like planet in that zone due to its extreme mass of more than 10 times that of Jupiter.

    As for Pi Mensae itself, the star is a 3.4 billion year old (roughly 730 million years younger than the Sun) yellow dwarf that is 1.11 times the mass of the Sun, 1.15 times the Sun’s radius, and 1.5 times the Sun’s luminosity.

    Due to its proximity to Earth and its high luminosity, the star has an apparent magnitude of 5.67 and is visible to the naked eye in dark, clear skies.

    The star’s brightness – unsurprisingly – gives a potential instant “win” for the TESS team, whose stated pre-mission goal was to find near-Earth transiting exoplanets around exceptionally bright stars.

    Pi Mensae is currently the second brightest star to host a confirmed transiting exoplanet, Pi Mensae b.

    As an even greater testament to TESS’ power, just hours before publication of this article, the TESS team confirmed a second exoplanet candidate from the first observation campaign.

    The second exoplanet candidate is LHS 3844 b. It orbits its parent star – an M dwarf – every 11 hours and is located 49 light years from Earth.

    The exoplanet candidate is described by NASA and the TESS team as a “hot Earth.”

    Given the wealth of light data for scientists to pour through from the now-completed first two of 26 observation sectors, it is highly likely that hundreds if not thousands of exoplanets candidates will be identified in the coming months and years — with tens of thousands of candidate planets to follow in the remaining 24 sectors of sky to be searched.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASASpaceFlight.com, now in its eighth year of operations, is already the leading online news resource for everyone interested in space flight specific news, supplying our readership with the latest news, around the clock, with editors covering all the leading space faring nations.

    Breaking more exclusive space flight related news stories than any other site in its field, NASASpaceFlight.com is dedicated to expanding the public’s awareness and respect for the space flight industry, which in turn is reflected in the many thousands of space industry visitors to the site, ranging from NASA to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Space Alliance and commercial space flight arena.

    With a monthly readership of 500,000 visitors and growing, the site’s expansion has already seen articles being referenced and linked by major news networks such as MSNBC, CBS, The New York Times, Popular Science, but to name a few.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:02 pm on August 7, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , NASA/MIT TESS, NASA’s Planet-Hunting TESS Catches a Comet Before Starting Science   

    From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center: “NASA’s Planet-Hunting TESS Catches a Comet Before Starting Science” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    THIS POST IS DEDICATED TO JLT in L.A., a fan of JPL who really ought to be thinking about Goddard as he plans his future. Goddard would mean either John’s Hopkins for the Applied Physics Lab or of course M.I.T.

    Aug. 6, 2018
    Claire Saravia
    claire.g.desaravia@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    NASA/MIT TESS

    Before NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) started science operations on July 25, 2018, the planet hunter sent back a stunning sequence of serendipitous images showing the motion of a comet. Taken over the course of 17 hours on July 25, these TESS images helped demonstrate the satellite’s ability to collect a prolonged set of stable periodic images covering a broad region of the sky — all critical factors in finding transiting planets orbiting nearby stars.

    Over the course of these tests, TESS took images of C/2018 N1, a comet discovered by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) satellite on June 29. The comet, located about 29 million miles (48 million kilometers) from Earth in the southern constellation Piscis Austrinus, is seen to move across the frame from right to left as it orbits the Sun. The comet’s tail, which consists of gases carried away from the comet by an outflow from the Sun called the solar wind, extends to the top of the frame and gradually pivots as the comet glides across the field of view.


    This video is compiled from a series of images taken on July 25 by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. The angular extent of the widest field of view is six degrees. Visible in the images are the comet C/2018 N1, asteroids, variable stars, asteroids and reflected light from Mars. TESS is expected to find thousands of planets around other nearby stars.
    Credits: Massachusetts Institute of Technology/NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    In addition to the comet, the images reveal a treasure trove of other astronomical activity. The stars appear to shift between white and black as a result of image processing. The shift also highlights variable stars — which change brightness either as a result of pulsation, rapid rotation, or by eclipsing binary neighbors. Asteroids in our solar system appear as small white dots moving across the field of view. Towards the end of the video, one can see a faint broad arc of light moving across the middle section of the frame from left to right. This is stray light from Mars, which is located outside the frame. The images were taken when Mars was at its brightest near opposition, or its closest distance, to Earth.

    These images were taken during a short period near the end of the mission’s commissioning phase, prior to the start of science operations. The movie presents just a small fraction of TESS’s active field of view. The team continues to fine-tune the spacecraft’s performance as it searches for distant worlds.

    TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Dr. George Ricker of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research serves as principal investigator for the mission. Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.

    Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab Campus

    See the full article here.


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.


    NASA/Goddard Campus

     
  • richardmitnick 1:03 pm on August 5, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , NASA/MIT TESS,   

    From NOVA: “NASA’s TESS Spacecraft Will Scan the Sky For Exoplanets” 

    PBS NOVA

    From NOVA

    13 Apr 2018 [Just now in social media.]
    Allison Eck

    1
    NASA/TESS will identify exoplanets orbiting the brightest stars just outside our solar system.

    The era of big data is here—not just for life on Earth, but in our quest to find Earth-like worlds, too.

    Next Monday, April 16, NASA’s $200-million Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, will surge skyward on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. If all goes well, over the next two years, it will search space for signs of exoplanets, or planets beyond our own solar system. So far, scientists have found around 4,000 such celestial bodies freckled across the face of the universe, including seven Earth-sized planets orbiting the dwarf star Trappist-1 about 235 trillion miles away. NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, launched in 2009, has led this revolutionary effort—but now it’s running out of fuel.

    NASA/Kepler Telescope

    TESS, its replacement, will document close-by exoplanets circling bright stars (as opposed to the more distant ones Kepler surveyed). These data points will give scientists more information about the planets ripest for scientific exploration—and which may harbor life.

    “TESS’s job is to find an old-fashioned address book of all the planets spread out around all the stars in the sky,” said Sara Seager, astrophysicist and planetary scientist at MIT and deputy science director for the TESS mission.

    George Ricker, principal investigator for TESS, estimates that the spacecraft will be able to find some 500 super-Earths, or planets that are one-and-a-half to two times the size of Earth, and several dozen Earth-sized planets. Many of these likely orbit red dwarf stars, which are smaller and cooler than our Sun. TESS will watch for transits—the slight dimming of stars as planets pass in front of them from our vantage point on Earth.

    Planet transit. NASA/Ames

    Since red dwarfs are cooler than the Sun, habitable zone planets that revolve around them will orbit closer to their host star, making transits more frequent—and thus more scientifically useful.

    “The transits are a repeating phenomenon. Once you’ve established that a given host star has planets, you can predict where they will be in the future,” Ricker said. “That’s really going to be one of the lasting legacies from TESS.”

    Stephen Rinehart, project scientist for TESS, says that with Kepler, the goal was to get a narrow, deep look at one slice of the cosmos. By contrast, TESS will take an expansive look at the most promising candidates for future research—and compare and contrast them.

    “It’s changing the nature of the dialogue,” Rinehart said. “So far, the nature of our conversations about exoplanets have really been statistical. With TESS, we’ll find planets around bright stars that are well-suited to follow-up observations, where we can talk not just about what the population is like, but we can start talking about what individual planets are like.”

    TESS will gaze upon 20 million stars in the solar neighborhood. Kepler was only able to look at about 200,000. “We’ve got a factor of a hundred more stars that we’re going to be able to look at,” Ricker said. “These are the objects that people are going to want to come back to centuries from now.”

    The spacecraft will act as a bridge to future projects, too, like the James Webb Telescope, which is set to launch in May of 2020. That telescope will study every phase in the history of our universe—and it’ll act as the “premier observatory of the next decade.”

    Our history with exoplanets is surprisingly brief. While we had dreamt of them for centuries, it was only 25 years ago that we confirmed their existence. Now, we know that nearly every red dwarf in the Milky Way has a family of planets, and that maybe 20% of those planets lie with the habitable zone. With so much variety and many to choose from, scientists hope that by studying their atmospheres, they’ll be able to detect signs of life.

    “[Habitability] is one of the philosophical questions of our time,” Rinehart said. “Can we find evidence that there’s even a possibility of other life nearby us in the universe? TESS isn’t going to quite get us there. TESS is an important step forward.”

    Paul Hertz, director of astrophysics for NASA, echoes Rinehart’s optimism.

    “After TESS is done, you’ll be able to go outside at night, take your grandchild by the hand, and point to a star and say, ‘I know there’s a planet around that star. Let’s talk about what that planet might be like,’” Hertz said. “Nobody’s ever been able to do that in the history of mankind.”

    See the full article here .

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    NOVA is the highest rated science series on television and the most watched documentary series on public television. It is also one of television’s most acclaimed series, having won every major television award, most of them many times over.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:17 pm on July 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , NASA/MIT TESS, NASA’s TESS Spacecraft Starts Science Operations   

    From Kavli MIT Institute For Astrophysics and Space Research: “NASA’s TESS Spacecraft Starts Science Operations” 

    KavliFoundation

    http://www.kavlifoundation.org/institutes

    Kavli MIT Institute of Astrophysics and Space Research

    From Kavli MIT Institute For Astrophysics and Space Research

    July 27, 2018

    NASA/MIT TESS

    NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite has started its search for planets around nearby stars, officially beginning science operations on July 25, 2018. TESS is expected to transmit its first series of science data back to Earth in August, and thereafter periodically every 13.5 days, once per orbit, as the spacecraft makes it closest approach to Earth. The TESS Science Team will begin searching the data for new planets immediately after the first series arrives.

    “I’m thrilled that our planet hunter is ready to start combing the backyard of our solar system for new worlds,” said Paul Hertz, NASA Astrophysics division director at Headquarters, Washington. “With possibly more planets than stars in our universe, I look forward to the strange, fantastic worlds we’re bound to discover.”

    TESS is NASA’s latest satellite to search for planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets. The mission will spend the next two years monitoring the nearest and brightest stars for periodic dips in their light. These events, called transits, suggest that a planet may be passing in front of its star. TESS is expected to find thousands of planets using this method, some of which could potentially support life.

    TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Dr. George Ricker of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research serves as principal investigator for the mission. Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington, Massachusetts; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.
    For the latest updates on TESS, visit nasa.gov/tess and tess.mit.edu

    See the full article here .


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    Mission Statement

    The mission of the MIT Kavli Institute (MKI) for Astrophysics and Space Research is to facilitate and carry out the research programs of faculty and research staff whose interests lie in the broadly defined area of astrophysics and space research. Specifically, the MKI will

    Provide an intellectual home for faculty, research staff, and students engaged in space- and ground-based astrophysics
    Develop and operate space- and ground-based instrumentation for astrophysics
    Engage in technology development
    Maintain an engineering and technical core capability for enabling and supporting innovative research
    Communicate to students, educators, and the public an understanding of and an appreciation for the goals, techniques and results of MKI’s research.

    The Kavli Foundation, based in Oxnard, California, is dedicated to the goals of advancing science for the benefit of humanity and promoting increased public understanding and support for scientists and their work.

    The Foundation’s mission is implemented through an international program of research institutes, professorships, and symposia in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience, and theoretical physics as well as prizes in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:52 pm on May 19, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA/MIT TESS   

    From MIT News: “TESS takes initial test image” 

    MIT News
    MIT Widget

    From MIT News

    NASA/MIT TESS

    May 18, 2018
    From MIT and Goddard press release

    1
    This test image from one of the four cameras aboard the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) captures a swath of the southern sky along the plane of our galaxy. More than 200,000 stars are visible. The image, which is centered in the constellation Centaurus, includes dark tendrils from the Coal Sack Nebula and the bright emission nebula Ced 122 (upper right).The bright star at bottom center is Beta Centauri. Image: NASA/MIT/TESS

    2
    An artist’s illustration of TESS as it passed the moon during its lunar flyby. This provided a gravitational boost that placed TESS on course for its final working orbit.Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

    Exoplanet-seeking satellite developed by MIT swings by moon toward final orbit.

    NASA’s next planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), is one step closer to searching for new worlds after successfully completing a lunar flyby on May 17. The spacecraft passed about 5,000 miles from the moon, which provided a gravity assist that helped TESS sail toward its final working orbit.

    As part of camera commissioning, the science team snapped a two-second test exposure using one of the four TESS cameras. The image, centered on the southern constellation Centaurus, reveals more than 200,000 stars. The edge of the Coalsack Nebula is in the right upper corner and the bright star Beta Centauri is visible at the lower left edge. TESS is expected to cover more than 400 times as much sky as shown in this image with its four cameras during its initial two-year search for exoplanets. A science-quality image, also referred to as a “first light” image, is expected to be released next month in June.

    TESS will undergo one final thruster burn on May 30 to enter its science orbit around Earth. This highly elliptical orbit will maximize the amount of sky the spacecraft can image, allowing it to continuously monitor large swaths of the sky. TESS is expected to begin science operations in mid-June after reaching this orbit and completing camera calibrations.


    NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite — TESS — will fly in an orbit that completes two circuits around Earth every time the moon orbits once. This special orbit will allow TESS’s cameras to monitor each patch of sky continuously for nearly a month at a time. Video: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

    Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on April 18, TESS is the next step in NASA’s search for planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets. The mission will observe nearly the entire sky to monitor nearby, bright stars in search of transits — periodic dips in a star’s brightness caused by a planet passing in front of the star. TESS is expected to find thousands of exoplanets. NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2020, will provide important follow-up observations of some of the most promising TESS-discovered exoplanets, allowing scientists to study their atmospheres.

    TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. George Ricker of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research serves as principal investigator for the mission. Additional partners include Orbital ATK, NASA’s Ames Research Center, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the Space Telescope Science Institute. The TESS science instruments were jointly developed by MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. More than a dozen universities, research institutes, and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

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    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

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