NASA — “New Science Teams Tackle Detecting Life on Other Worlds”

TESS Spacecraft


Decades of research have led scientists to look deeply into the nature of life itself — what it is, how it began on Earth, and what other worlds might also support it. A shift in focus is now emerging as NASA scientists recognize that with a strategic push the possibility of detecting life beyond Earth could be on the horizon with the creation of new teams: Center for Life Detection Science, Network for Life Detection, Laboratory for Agnostic Biosignatures, and Oceans Across Space and Time.


“The Iron Planet” –First Alien Body Discovered Forged in a Catastrophic Collision

Kepler 107 Collision


Astronomers believe that a catastrophic collision stripped off the silicate mantle, leaving only the 70 percent iron core of the two exoplanets that exist in the newly discovered Kepler 107 star system. The two alien objects have almost identical radii of 1.5 and 1.6 Earth radii, but have widely disparate densities.


“Four Suns in the Sky” –Planets of Strange Two-Star Systems

Kepler Star System 35a and b


“We used to think other solar systems would form just like ours, with the planets all orbiting in the same direction around a single sun,” said Daniel Price of Monash University’s Center for Astrophysics (MoCA). “But with the new images we see a swirling disc of gas and dust orbiting around two stars. It was quite surprising to also find that that disc orbits at right angles to the orbit of the two stars. Incredibly, two more stars were seen orbiting that disc. So if planets were born here there would be four suns in the sky!”


“Mystery of the Blobs” –Hubble Reveals Dry and Lifeless Red Dwarf Planets

AU_Microscopii Red Dwarf


Our Sun is not one of the most abundant types of star in our Milky Way galaxy. That award goes to red dwarfs, stars that are smaller and cooler than our Sun. In fact, red dwarfs presumably contain the bulk of our galaxy’s planet population reports NASA’s Hubble Site, which could number tens of billions of worlds.


TESS Finds a New Planet Orbiting a Bright Dwarf Star


TESS orbiting M Dwarf Star


“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.


New Habitable Kepler World –“Human Eyes Found It Hidden in the Data”

Neptune Exoplanet


NASA’s Kepler Mission K2 team announced the discovery of another new world today, two months after the Kepler spacecraft ran out of fuel on Oct. 30th, and ended its mission after nine years, during which it discovered 2,600 confirmed planets around other stars – the bulk of those now known – along with thousands of additional candidates astronomers are working to confirm.


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