25
Aug 16

Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star

Source: ESO Science Release eso1629

eso1629aArtist's impression of the planet orbiting Proxima Centauri.
Image credits: ESO/M. Kornmesser.

Astronomers using ESO telescopes and other facilities have found clear evidence of a planet orbiting the closest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri. The long-sought world, designated Proxima b, orbits its cool red parent star every 11 days and has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. This rocky world is a little more massive than the Earth and is the closest exoplanet to us — and it may also be the closest possible abode for life outside the Solar System. A paper describing this milestone finding will be published in the journal Nature on 25 August 2016. (learn more)

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8
Jul 16

A Surprising Planet with Three Suns

Source: ESO Science Release eso1624


Artist’s impression of planet in the HD 131399 system.
Image credits: ESO/L.Calçada.

A team of astronomers have used the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope to image the first planet ever found in a wide orbit inside a triple-star system. The orbit of such a planet had been expected to be unstable, probably resulting in the planet being quickly ejected from the system. But somehow this one survives. This unexpected observation suggests that such systems may actually be more common than previously thought. The results will be published online in the journal Science on 7 July 2016. (learn more)

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24
Jun 16

Unexpected Excess of Giant Planets in Star Cluster

Source: Science Release eso1621

eso1621aArtist’s impression of a hot Jupiter exoplanet in the star cluster Messier 67 .
Image credits: ESO/L. Calçada.

An international team of astronomers have found that there are far more planets of the hot Jupiter type than expected in a cluster of stars called Messier 67. This surprising result was obtained using a number of telescopes and instruments, among them the HARPS spectrograph at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. The denser environment in a cluster will cause more frequent interactions between planets and nearby stars, which may explain the excess of hot Jupiters. (learn more)

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16
Feb 16

First Detection of Super-Earth Atmosphere

Source: ESA/Hubble Science Release heic1603

For the first time astronomers were able to analyse the atmosphere of an exoplanet in the class known as super-Earths. Using data gathered with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and new analysis techniques, the exoplanet 55 Cancri e is revealed to have a dry atmosphere without any indications of water vapour. The results, to be published in the Astrophysical Journal, indicate that the atmosphere consists mainly of hydrogen and helium. (learn more)

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15
Dec 15

Hubble reveals diversity of exoplanet atmospheres

Source: ESA/Hubble

Clear to cloudy hot Jupiters
Image credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Astronomers have used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope to study the atmospheres of ten hot, Jupiter-sized exoplanets in detail, the largest number of such planets ever studied. The team was able to discover why some of these worlds seem to have less water than expected — a long-standing mystery. The results are published in "Nature".(read more)

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16
Jul 15

Jupiter Twin Discovered Around Solar Twin

Source: ESO Science Release eso1529

eso1529aArtist’s Impression of a Jupiter twin orbiting HIP 11915.
Image credits: ESO/L. Benassi.

An international group of astronomers has used the ESO 3.6-metre telescope to identify a planet just like Jupiter orbiting at the same distance from a Sun-like star, HIP 11915. According to current theories, the formation of Jupiter-mass planets plays an important role in shaping the architecture of planetary systems. The existence of a Jupiter-mass planet in a Jupiter-like orbit around a Sun-like star opens the possibility that the system of planets around this star may be similar to our own Solar System. HIP 11915 is about the same age as the Sun and, furthermore, its Sun-like composition suggests that there may also be rocky planets orbiting closer to the star. (learn more)

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6
Jan 15

Gemini Planet Imager finds disk of dust from asteroids or comets left behind by planet formation

Source: Gemini Planet Imager

hr4796aFirst light image of thedisk around the young star HR4796A.  Image credit: Marshall Perrin (Space Telescope Science Institute) / the GPI Team.On the left: all radiation; on the right: polarized radiation.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of 51 Peg b, the first exoplanet detected around a Sun-like star. And although the number of sheer detections in the years since have been remarkable, it’s also remarkable how little we still know about these alien worlds, save for their distances from their host stars, their radii, and sometimes their masses.

But the ability to directly image these worlds provides the opportunity to change all that. “It’s the tip of the iceberg,” said Marshall Perrin from the Space Telescope Science Institute in a press conference at the American Astronomical Society’s meeting earlier today. “In the long run, we think that imaging offers perhaps the best path to characterizing rocky planets on Earth-like orbits.”

Perrin highlighted two intriguing results from the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), an instrument designed not only to resolve the dim light of an exoplanet, but also analyze a planet’s atmospheric temperature and composition.

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7
Jul 14

NameExoWorlds - Help decide the names of planets orbiting other stars

unnamed-exoplanets
Image Credit: IAU / M. Kornmesser / N. Risinger (skysurvey.org)

The International Astronomical Union has unveiled a worldwide contest, NameExoWorlds, which gives the public a role in naming planets and their host stars beyond the solar system. This contest is creating some controversy. Nonetheless, it is an interesting contest for teachers to work with their students. (learn more)

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7
Mar 14

Crashing Comets Explain Surprise Gas Clump Around Young Star

Source: ESO Science Release eso1408

eso1408a
Artist's impression of Beta Pictoris.
Image credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/F. Reddy

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in northern Chile have today announced the discovery of an unexpected clump of carbon monoxide gas in the dusty disc around the star Beta Pictoris. This is a surprise, as such gas is expected to be rapidly destroyed by starlight. Something — probably frequent collisions between small, icy objects such as comets — must be causing the gas to be continuously replenished. The new results are published today in the journal Science.(read more)

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3
Jun 13

Lightest Exoplanet Imaged So Far?

Source: ESO Science Release eso1324

eso1324a
ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) shows the newly discovered planet HD95086 b.
Image credits: ESO/J. Rameau.

A team of astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope has imaged a faint object moving near a bright star. With an estimated mass of four to five times that of Jupiter, it would be the least massive planet to be directly observed outside the Solar System. The discovery is an important contribution to our understanding of the formation and evolution of planetary systems. (read more)

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25
May 13

Big Weather on Hot Jupiters

Source: NASA Science News

Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope are making weather maps of an exotic class of exoplanets called "hot Jupiters."

 

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22
Nov 12

Dwarf Planet Makemake Lacks Atmosphere

Source: ESO Science Release eso1246


Artist’s impression of the surface of the dwarf planet Makemake .
Image credits: ESO/L. Calçada/Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org)

Astronomers have used three telescopes at ESO’s observatories in Chile to observe the dwarf planet Makemake as it drifted in front of a distant star and blocked its light. The new observations have allowed them to check for the first time whether Makemake is surrounded by an atmosphere. This chilly world has an orbit lying in the outer Solar System and was expected to have an atmosphere like Pluto (eso0908), but this is now shown not to be the case. The scientists also measured Makemake’s density for the first time. The new results are to be published in the 22 November issue of the journal Nature. (read more)

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14
Nov 12

Lost in Space: Rogue Planet Spotted?

Source: ESO Science Release 1245


Artist’s impression of the free-floating planet CFBDSIR J214947.2-040308.9.
Image credits: ESO/L. Calçada/P. Delorme/R. Saito/VVV Consortium

Astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope have identified a body that is very probably a planet wandering through space without a parent star. This is the most exciting free-floating planet candidate so far and the closest such object to the Solar System at a distance of about 100 light-years. Its comparative proximity, and the absence of a bright star very close to it, has allowed the team to study its atmosphere in great detail. This object also gives astronomers a preview of the exoplanets that future instruments aim to image around stars other than the Sun. (read more)

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18
Oct 12

Planet Found in Nearest Star System to Earth

Source: ESO Science Release eso1241


Artist’s impression of the planet around Alpha Centauri B.
Image credits: ESO/L. Calçada/N. Risinger.

European astronomers have discovered a planet with about the mass of the Earth orbiting a star in the Alpha Centauri system — the nearest to Earth. It is also the lightest exoplanet ever discovered around a star like the Sun. The planet was detected using the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. The results will appear online in the journal Nature on 17 October 2012. (read more)

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26
Sep 12

Weird Planets

Source: NASA Science Casts
 
 

Once, astronomers thought planets couldn't form around binary stars. Now Kepler has found a whole system of planets orbiting a double star. This finding shows that planetary systems are weirder and more abundant than previously thought.

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20
Jul 12

Nearby Magma Exoplanet is Smaller Than Earth

Source: Universe Today


Artist’s concept that shows what astronomers believe
is an alien world just two-thirds the size of Earth.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Astronomers have detected what could be one of the smallest exoplanets found so far, just two-thirds the size of Earth. And, cosmically speaking, it’s in our neighborhood, at just 33 light-years away. But this planet, called UCF-1.01, is not a world most Earthlings would enjoy visiting: it likely is covered in magma.

“We have found strong evidence for a very small, very hot and very near planet with the help of the Spitzer Space Telescope,” said Kevin Stevenson from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, lead author of a new paper in The Astrophysical Journal. “Identifying nearby small planets such as UCF-1.01 may one day lead to their characterization using future instruments.” (read more)

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2
Jul 12

Dramatic change spotted on a faraway planet

Source: ESA/Hubble Science Release heic1209


Stellar flare hits HD 189733b (artist's impression) .
Image credits: NASA, ESA, L. Calçada

Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have seen dramatic changes in the upper atmosphere of a faraway planet. Just after a violent flare on its parent star bathed it in intense X-ray radiation, the planet’s atmosphere gave off a powerful burst of evaporation. The observations give a tantalising glimpse of the changing climates and weather on planets outside our Solar System.(read more)

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30
Jun 12

New Way of Probing Exoplanet Atmospheres — Tau Boötis b revealed

Source: ESO Science Release eso1227


Artist’s impression of the exoplanet Tau Boötis b.
Image credits: ESO/L. Calçada

For the first time a clever new technique has allowed astronomers to study the atmosphere of an exoplanet in detail — even though it does not pass in front of its parent star. An international team has used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to directly catch the faint glow from the planet Tau Boötis b. They have studied the planet’s atmosphere and measured its orbit and mass precisely for the first time — in the process solving a 15-year old problem. Surprisingly, the team also finds that the planet’s atmosphere seems to be cooler higher up, the opposite of what was expected. The results were published in the 28 June 2012 issue of the journal Nature. (read more)

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28
Jun 12

Stellar Flare Blasts Exoplanet

Source: NASA Science News


Artist's impression of the evaporation of HD 189733b's atmosphere.
Image credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Working in tandem, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Swift satellite have caught a distant star blasting one of its own planets with a powerful stellar flare. The eruption stripped thousands of tons of material from the planet's atmosphere. (read more)

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28
Mar 12

Many Billions of Rocky Planets in the Habitable Zones around Red Dwarfs in the Milky Way

Source: ESO Science Release eso1214


Artist’s impression of sunset on the super-Earth world Gliese 667 Cc.
Image credits: ESO/L. Calçada.

A new result from ESO’s HARPS planet finder shows that rocky planets not much bigger than Earth are very common in the habitable zones around faint red stars. The international team estimates that there are tens of billions of such planets in the Milky Way galaxy alone, and probably about one hundred in the Sun’s immediate neighbourhood. This is the first direct measurement of the frequency of super-Earths around red dwarfs, which account for 80% of the stars in the Milky Way.(read more)

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