NASA’s Starshade Spacecraft –Future Exoplanet Exploration Enables Pictures of Earth-like Worlds



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Scientists and engineers are actively working on two technologies to help with this challenge: the starshade, a giant flower-shaped spacecraft; and coronagraphs, single instruments that fit inside telescopes. Both a starshade and a coronagraph block the light of a star, making it easier for telescopes to pick up the dim light that reflects off planets. This would enable astronomers to take pictures of Earth-like worlds — and then use other instruments called spectrometers to search the planets’ atmospheres for chemical clues about whether life might exist there.


Invisible, Unknown Part of Milky Way Discovered at Galactic Bulge (Weekend Feature)





This past fall 2015, astronomers using the VISTA telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory discovered a previously unknown component of the Milky Way. Mapping the Cepheids that they discovered, the team traced an entirely new feature in the Milky Way — a thin disc of young stars across the galactic bulge, a dense ball, roughly spherical, comprised of mostly evolved red stars . There is a bar that is about 5,000 light years wide and 20,000 light years long that connects the bulge to the first spiral of the milky way.  


Odd Oort Cloud Object –“Reveals Ancient Clues to Origin of Our Solar System”






“We’ve found the first rocky comet, and we are looking for others,” said the ESO’s Olivier Hainaut. “Depending how many we find, we will know whether the giant planets danced across the Solar System when they were young, or if they grew up quietly without moving much.”


The Supervoid Enigma–“The Largest Structure in the Cosmos?” (Friday’s Most Popular)




In the spring of 2015, a team of astronomers led by Dr. István Szapudi of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa may have found an explanation for the existence of the Cold Spot that resides in the constellation Eridanus in the southern galactic hemisphere, which Szapudi says may be “the largest individual structure ever identified by humanity.”


What Lies Beneath Antarctica –“A ‘Great-Lakes-Size’ System of Waterways Buried for Thousands of Years”


“It is amazing to think that we did not know that this lake even existed until a decade ago,” said Helen Amanda Fricker, a WISSARD principal investigator and a professor of geophysics at Scripps, who initially discovered Subglacial Lake Whillans in 2007 from NASA satellite data. “It is exciting to see such a rich dataset from the lake, and these new data are helping us understand how lakes function as part of the ice-sheet system.”



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