NASA’s ‘Exoplanet’ Press Conference –“Will They Reveal Discovery of Another Earth-Like Planet in Alpha Centauri Star System?” (Sara Seager of MIT and Caltech’s Sean Carey Might Hold the Clue)

 

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A clue to the discovery NASA will reveal  tomorrow might well be the presence of Michael Gillon, astronomer at the University of Liege in Belgium; Sean Carey, manager of NASA's Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC; and  Sara Seager, professor of planetary science and physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. All three have been intensely focused on the discovery of new Earth-like planets in the Alpha Centauri Star System.


NASA will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. EST  tomorrow, Wednesday, Feb. 22, to present new findings on exoplanets. The event will air live on NASA Television (see details below) and the agency's website. The public may ask questions during the briefing on Twitter using the hashtag #askNASA. 

Scientists estimate the orange dwarf Alpha Centauri B system, for example,  is slightly older than our 4.6-billion-year old solar system at anywhere from 4.8 billion to 6.5 billion years old. If life on a planet or moon in the habitable zone of Alpha Centauri B evolved similarly as it did on Earth, then primitive forms of life could already have flourished there when the young Earth collided with a Mars-sized object, forming our moon.

 

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There is an interesting paper with press conference participants Sara Seager and Michael Gillon among the authors in 2015 "Hubble Space Telescope search for the transit of the Earth-mass exoplanet Alpha Centauri Bb" that says results from exoplanet surveys indicate that small planets (super-Earth size and below) are abundant in our Galaxy. However, little is known about their interiors and atmospheres.

"There is a need to find small planets transiting bright stars," Seager wrote in the 2015 article  "which would enable a detailed characterization of this population of objects based on the results of a search for the transit of the Earth-mass exoplanet Alpha Centauri Bb with the Hubble Space Telescope.

"We find in our data a single transit-like event that could be associated to another Earth-size planet in the system, on a longer period orbit. Our program demonstrates the ability of Hubble Space Telescope to obtain consistent, high-precision photometry of saturated stars over 26 hours of continuous observations.

Michael Gillon says he’s always wanted to know whether humankind—and all the biology with which we share our planet—have company in the galaxy. “I’ve always been focused on extraterrestrial life,” he says. Gillon, an astronomer at the University of Liège, "to find life one must find not just planets (easy enough now) but those that could be explored in depth from Earth.

 

 

There is also this proposed observation with the Spitzer Infrared Space Telescope "Searching for the transit of Alpha Centauri Bb, Spitzer Proposal ID #10146" with press conference participant Sean Carey listed as the author that says "We propose a novel set of observations to measure the possible transit of the recently detected exoplanet, Alpha Cen Bb. This closest exoplanet is arguably one of the most exciting detections of the previous year due to the enormous potential for followup observations as well as far-reaching public interest outside the astronomical community."

The briefing participants at tomorrow's conference include:

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington

Michael Gillon, astronomer at the University of Liege in Belgium

Sean Carey, manager of NASA's Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC, Pasadena, California

Nikole Lewis, astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore

Sara Seager, professor of planetary science and physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

A Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) about exoplanets will be held following the briefing at 3 p.m. with scientists available to answer questions in English and Spanish.

WATCH LIVE STREAMED NASA TV HERE

The Daily Galaxy via NASA Exoplanets, NASA Astrobiology, and NASA Watch

 

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