Mysteries of one of the most fascinating nearby planetary systems now have been solved, report authors of a scientific paper to be published by the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society in its early online edition on 22 April 2014. The study, which presents the first viable model for the planetary system orbiting one the first stars discovered to have planets — the star named 55 Cancri — was led by Penn State University graduate student Benjamin Nelson in collaboration with faculty at the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State and five astronomers at other institutions in the United States and Germany. Read more…
The universe we can see is made up of billions of galaxies, each containing anywhere from hundreds of thousands to hundreds of billions of stars. Large numbers of galaxies are elliptical in shape, red and mostly made up of old stars. Another (more familiar) type is the spiral, where arms wind out in a blue thin disk from a central red bulge. On average stars in spiral galaxies tend to be much younger than those in ellipticals. Read more…
For the first time, an Earth-sized planet has been found in the habitable zone of its star. This discovery not only proves the existence of worlds that might be similar to our own, but will undoubtedly shape future investigations of exoplanets that could have terrestrial surface environments.
The new-found body, orbiting the red dwarf star Kepler-186 and designated Kepler-186f, is the fifth — and outermost — world to be discovered in this system. The results are described in an article appearing in Science.
“This is the first definitive Earth-sized planet found in the habitable zone around another star,” says lead author Elisa Quintana of the SETI Institute at NASA Ames Research Center. “Finding such planets is a primary goal of the Kepler space telescope. The star is a main-sequence M-dwarf, a very common type. More than 70 percent of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy are M-dwarfs.”
An image of a galaxy cluster taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope gives a remarkable cross-section of the Universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history. They range from cosmic near neighbours to objects seen in the early years of the Universe. The 14-hour exposure shows objects around a billion times fainter than can be seen with the naked eye.
San Francisco State University astronomer Stephen Kane and an international team of researchers have announced the discovery of a new rocky planet that could potentially have liquid water on its surface.
The new planet, dubbed Kepler-186f, was discovered using NASA’s Kepler telescope, launched in March 2009 to search for habitable zone, Earth-sized planets in our corner of the Milky Way Galaxy. A habitable zone planet orbits its star at a distance where any water on the planet’s surface is likely to stay liquid. Since liquid water is critical to life on Earth, many astronomers believe the search for extraterrestrial life should focus on planets where liquid water occurs.
“Some people call these habitable planets, which of course we have no idea if they are,” said Kane, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy. “We simply know that they are in the habitable zone, and that is the best place to start looking for habitable planets.”