“Warping Spacetime to Explore Uncharted Realms” –NASA Seeks Out Hidden Planets at Milky Way’s Center

Milky Way Center


NASA’s WFIRST’s infrared telescope will explore uncharted regions of the galaxy for exoplanets due to the different goals of previous missions. Kepler, for example, searched a modest-sized region of about 100 square degrees with 100,000 stars at typical distances of around a thousand light-years. TESS scans the entire sky and tracks 200,000 stars; however their typical distances are around 100 light-years. WFIRST will search roughly 3 square degrees, but will follow 200 million stars at distances of around 10,000 light-years.


“Beyond Extreme” — Raining Iron on the Dark Side of a Giant Exoplanet

giant planet WASP-76b


“The observations” reports astrobiologist María Rosa Zapatero Osorio, coordinator of the ESO’s ESPRESSO science team about an exoplanet, 390 light years away towards the constellation Pisces, “show a huge quantity of iron in the daytime atmosphere of the giant planet WASP-76b. A part of this iron is transported to the dark side of the planet due to its rotation and the atmospheric winds. There in the cooler environment of the dark side of the planet, the iron condenses and precipitates.”


“Big Life” –Habitable Exoplanet Twice Size of Earth Detected

Exoplanet Ross 128 b


For most of human history, the question of whether or not extraterrestrial life exists has been philosophical. It’s only in recent years that we have had the hard-science modeling tools and observational technology to address this question. A team of astronomers from the University of Cambridge have found an exoplanet more than twice the size of Earth to be potentially habitable, opening the search for life to planets significantly larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. Using the mass, radius, and atmospheric data of the exoplanet K2-18b they determined that it’s possible for the planet to host liquid water at habitable conditions beneath its hydrogen-rich atmosphere.


“Alien Beacons” — Radio Astronomers Target C-Band Signal from Artificial Interstellar Technology

ESA LaSilla Observatory


Astronomers are targeting the radio frequency range between 4 and 8 gigahertz, dubbed the C-band, said Breakthrough Listen principal investigator, astrophysicist Andrew Siemion of the University of California, Berkeley, who announced the release of nearly 2 petabytes of data, the most comprehensive survey yet of radio emissions from the plane of the Milky Way Galaxy and the region around its central black hole, the second data dump from the four-year old search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).


“Hacking Exoplanets” –NASA’s Search for Alien Life at 7 Quadrillion Calculations per Second

Exoplanet Proxima b


“For a long time, scientists were really focused on finding sun- and Earth-like systems. That’s all we knew. But we found out that there’s this whole crazy diversity in planets. We found planets as small as the moon. We found giant planets. And we found some that orbit tiny stars, giant stars and multiple stars,” said Elisa Quintana, a NASA Goddard astrophysicist who led the 2014 discovery of Earth-sized planet Kepler-186f about the use of NASA’s Discover supercomputer to determine whether any of more than 4,000 distinctly strange exoplanets discovered in the past two decades could support life.


“Beyond Kepler” –CHEOPS ‘Alien-Planet’ Space Telescope Delivers First Image

CHEOPS First Light


“Now that Cheops has observed its first target, we are one step closer to the start of the mission science,” says physicist Kate Isaak, ESA Cheops project scientist, about the mission to observe bright stars that are already known to host alien worlds that are larger than Earth and smaller than Neptune, by measuring minuscule brightness changes due to the planet’s transit across the star’s disc. “This beautifully blurred image carries the promise of a new, deeper understanding of worlds beyond our Solar System.”