Friday, May 05, 2017

Saturn | NASA Cassini Mission

Assembled using raw uncalibrated infrared (IR3), red, and violet filtered images taken by the Cassini spacecraft on May 3rd, 2017.

For more information about Cassini's Grand Finale, visit:

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Kevin M. Gill
Image Date: May 3, 2017
Release Date: May 4, 2017

#NASA #Astronomy #Science #Space #Saturn #Rings #Planet #GrandFinale #SolarSystem #Exploration #Cassini #Spacecraft #JPL #Pasadena #California #UnitedStates #ESA #ASI #History #STEM #Education

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Happy Star Wars Day from NASA's Orion Program!

Orion is NASA's deep space human exploration spacecraft.

Learn more:

Credit: NASA
Release Date: May 4, 2017

#NASA #StarWarsDay #MayTheFouthBeWithYou #Space #Orion #Spacecraft #DeepSpace #Exploration #SolarSystem #Mars #JourneyToMars #Human #Spaceflight #StarWars #ScienceFiction #Film #GeorgeLucas #Lucasfilm #UnitedStates #Technology #Aerospace #Engineering #Future #Humanity #Imagination #STEM #Education

The final frontier of the Frontier Fields | Hubble Space Telescope

Image: Six billion light years away!

May 4, 2017: The NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope has peered across six billion light years of space to resolve extremely faint features of the galaxy cluster Abell 370 that have not been seen before. Imaged here in stunning detail, Abell 370 is part of the Frontier Fields program which uses massive galaxy clusters to study the mysteries of dark matter and the very early Universe.

Six billion light-years away in the constellation Cetus (the Sea Monster), Abell 370 is made up of hundreds of galaxies [1]. Already in the mid-1980s higher-resolution images of the cluster showed that the giant luminous arc in the lower left of the image was not a curious structure within the cluster, but rather an astrophysical phenomenon: the gravitationally lensed image of a galaxy twice as far away as the cluster itself. Hubble helped show that this arc is composed of two distorted images of an ordinary spiral galaxy that just happens to lie behind the cluster.

Abell 370’s enormous gravitational influence warps the shape of spacetime around it, causing the light of background galaxies to spread out along multiple paths and appear both distorted and magnified. The effect can be seen as a series of streaks and arcs curving around the centre of the image. Massive galaxy clusters can therefore act like natural telescopes, giving astronomers a close-up view of the very distant galaxies behind the cluster—a glimpse of the Universe in its infancy, only a few hundred million years after the Big Bang.

This image of Abell 370 was captured as part of the Frontier Fields programme, which used a whopping 630 hours of Hubble observing time, over 560 orbits of the Earth. Six clusters of galaxies were imaged in exquisite detail, including Abell 370 which was the very last one to be finished. An earlier image of this object—using less observation time and therefore not recording such faint detail —was published in 2009.

During the cluster observations, Hubble also looked at six “parallel fields”, regions near the galaxy clusters which were imaged with the same exposure times as the clusters themselves. Each cluster and parallel field were imaged in infrared light by the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), and in visible light by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).

The Frontier Fields programme produced the deepest observations ever made of galaxy clusters and the magnified galaxies behind them. These observations are helping astronomers understand how stars and galaxies emerged out of the dark ages of the Universe, when space was dark, opaque, and filled with hydrogen.

Studying massive galaxy clusters like Abell 370 also helps with measuring the distribution of normal matter and dark matter within such clusters [heic1506]. By studying its lensing properties, astronomers have determined that Abell 370 contains two large, separate clumps of dark matter, contributing to the evidence that this massive galaxy cluster is actually the result of two smaller clusters merging together.

Now that the observations for the Frontier Fields program are complete, astronomers can use the full dataset to explore the clusters, their gravitational lensing effects and the magnified galaxies from the early Universe in full detail.

Credit: NASA, ESA/Hubble, HST Frontier Fields
Release Date: May 4, 2017

#NASA #Hubble #Astronomy #Science #Space #Abell370 #Galaxy #Cluster #Cetus #Cosmos #Universe #Telescope #STScI #Goddard #GSFC #ESA #STEM #Education

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Mars: Colorful Equatorial Gullies in Krupac Crater | NASA

Krupac Crater also hosts some of the most impressive recurring slope lineae on equatorial Mars outside of Valles Marineris. This image was acquired by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) instrument aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

Although large gullies (ravines) are concentrated at higher latitudes, there are gullies on steep slopes in equatorial regions. An enhanced-color closeup shows part of the rim and inner slope of Krupac Crater located just 7.8 degrees south of the equator.

The colors of the gully deposits match the colors of the eroded source materials. Krupac is a relatively young impact crater, but exposes ancient bedrock. Krupac Crater also hosts some of the most impressive recurring slope lineae (RSL) on equatorial Mars outside of Valles Marineris.

The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Caption Credit: Alfred McEwen
Release Date: May 3, 2017

#NASA #Mars #Space #Astronomy #Science #Crater #Krupac #Gullies #RecurringSlopeLineae #RSL #Geology #Landscape #Terrain #Geoscience #MRO #Reconnaissance #Orbiter #Spacecraft #HiRISE #Camera #JPL #STEM #Education

Northeastern United States at Night | International Space Station

May 1, 2017: An astronaut aboard the International Space Station centered this photograph on the largest group of lights in the northeastern United States. New York City and Newark, New Jersey, lie at the center of a string of city lights stretching roughly 300 kilometers (200 miles) from Philadelphia to Hartford. The characteristic shape of Long Island, during night and daylight overpasses, is one of the most recognizable features to an astronaut looking at the Northeast coast.

Night-light intensity indicates population densities, a phenomenon well-known to urban geographers. An important pattern is the progressive decline of population density away from the cores of the largest cities. Lower population densities appear in the southern counties of New Jersey, though the barrier islands are defined by narrow shoreline developments. Some rural areas in the photo have fewer lights than shipping lanes of the North Atlantic Ocean.

A network of thin lines indicates highways and main roads—which can be difficult to discern in daylight images—radiating from the major cities. One of the brightest lines is Interstate 95, which crosses the entire image from a point west of Philadelphia through New York—where it is overwhelmed by city lights—and along the coast of Connecticut.

Image Credit: Astronaut photograph ISS050-E-29655 was acquired on January 10, 2017, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a 45 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 50 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public.

Caption Credit: Andi Hollier, Hx5, JETS Contract at NASA-JSC
Instrument(s): ISS - Digital Camera
Image Date: January 10, 201
Release Date: May 1, 2017

#NASA #ESA #ISS #Earth #Science #UnitedStates #Night #Orbit #Astronauts #ShaneKimbrough #PeggyWhitson #ThomasPesquet #Proxima #Expedition50 #Technology #Photography #JSC #CNES #France #Europe #OverviewEffect #OrbitalPerspective #STEM #Education

NASA’s Webb Telescope Completes Goddard Testing, Heading to Texas for More

May 1, 2017: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has successfully passed the center of curvature test, an important optical measurement of Webb’s fully assembled primary mirror prior to cryogenic testing, and the last test held at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, before the spacecraft is shipped to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston for more testing.

After undergoing rigorous environmental tests simulating the stresses of its rocket launch, the Webb telescope team at Goddard analyzed the results from this critical optical test and compared it to the pre-test measurements. The team concluded that the mirrors passed the test with the optical system unscathed.

“The Webb telescope is about to embark on its next step in reaching the stars as it has successfully completed its integration and testing at Goddard. It has taken a tremendous team of talented individuals to get to this point from all across NASA, our industry and international partners, and academia,” said Bill Ochs, NASA’s Webb telescope project manager. “It is also a sad time as we say goodbye to the Webb Telescope at Goddard, but are excited to begin cryogenic testing at Johnson.”

Rocket launches create high levels of vibration and noise that rattle spacecraft and telescopes. At Goddard, engineers tested the Webb telescope in vibration and acoustics test facilities that simulate the launch environment to ensure that functionality is not impaired by the rigorous ride on a rocket into space.

Before and after these environmental tests took place, optical engineers set up an interferometer, the main device used to measure the shape of the Webb telescope’s mirror. An interferometer gets its name from the process of recording and measuring the ripple patterns that result when different beams of light mix and their waves combine or “interfere.”

Waves of visible light are less than a thousandth of a millimeter long and optics on the Webb telescope need to be shaped and aligned even more accurately than that to work correctly. Making measurements of the mirror shape and position by lasers prevents physical contact and damage (scratches to the mirror). So, scientists use wavelengths of light to make tiny measurements. By measuring light reflected off the optics using an interferometer, they are able to measure extremely small changes in shape or position that may occur after exposing the mirror to a simulated launch or temperatures that simulate the subfreezing environment of space.

During a test conducted by a team from Goddard, Ball Aerospace of Boulder, Colorado, and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, temperature and humidity conditions in the clean room were kept incredibly stable to minimize fluctuations in the sensitive optical measurements over time. Even so, tiny vibrations are ever-present in the clean room that cause jitter during measurements, so the interferometer is a “high-speed” one, taking 5,000 “frames” every second, which is a faster rate than the background vibrations themselves. This allows engineers to subtract out jitter and get good, clean results on any changes to the mirror's shape.

“Some people thought it would not be possible to measure beryllium mirrors of this size and complexity in a clean room to these levels but the team was incredibly ingenious in how they performed these measurements and the results give us great confidence we have a fantastic primary mirror,” said Lee Feinberg, Webb’s telescope optical element manager.

The Webb telescope will be shipped to Johnson for end-to-end optical testing in a vacuum at its extremely cold operating temperatures. Then it will continue on its journey to Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California, for final assembly and testing prior to launch in 2018.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s most advanced space observatory. This engineering marvel is designed to unravel some of the greatest mysteries of the universe, from discovering the first stars and galaxies that formed after the big bang to studying the atmospheres of planets around other stars. It is a joint project of NASA, ESA (the European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

For more information about the Webb Telescope mirrors, visit: or

Article Credit: NASA Goddard
Image Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn
Release Date: May 1, 2017

#NASA #Astronomy #Science #Space #Telescope #JWST #JamesWebb #Exoplanets #Planets #Astrophysics #Cosmos #Universe #ESA #CSA #Goddard #GSFC #JSC #Johnson #UnitedStates #STScI #STEM #Education

Monday, May 01, 2017

Paris by day | International Space Station

ESA Astronaut Thomas Pesquet of France: "Finally a picture of Paris by day, during the weekend too. A metropolis that extends far beyond the camera frame. Much to explore in this picture! I hope everybody can spot something they recognize, famous monuments, streets they lived in, restaurants where great meals were eaten, museums and more that Paris has on offer."

"Enfin un passage au-dessus de Paris en journée, le weekend et par beau temps ! La ville rentre à peine dans mon cadre… Chacun y trouvera j’espère sa rue, un monument préféré, une gare de passage, des souvenirs"

Credit: ESA/NASA
Image Date: April 20, 2017

#NASA #ESA #ISS #Earth #Planet #Science #Paris #Day #EarthObservation #Astronaut #ThomasPesquet #Proxima #Expedition51 #Technology #Photography #JSC #CNES #France #Europe #OverviewEffect #OrbitalPerspective #STEM #Education

Clouds ‘Roll’ over Pacific Atolls | NASA’s Terra Satellite

Satellite view of clouds and sunglint over islands in the Pacific Ocean
May 1, 2017: Areas near the equator are frequently cloudy, obscuring the view of Earth’s surface from space. April 7, 2017, was no different. On that day, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image of clouds over the Gilbert Islands. The remote island chain is part of the Republic of Kiribati, and straddles the equator in the central Pacific Ocean.

These clouds, however, were not your typical tropical rainstorm. Instead, the parallel “roll clouds” were likely influenced by the development of Tropical Cyclone Cook to the south. At the time, Cook was strengthening near Vanuatu and heading toward New Caledonia.

“As far as tropical cyclones go, we believe that they are a nearly ideal environment for roll formation,” said Ralph Foster, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington. The extreme wind shear associated with cyclones generates additional turbulence in the already turbulent layer of air near Earth’s surface. According to Foster, the turbulent flow in this layer “self-organizes,” forming long rolls of counter-rotating air.

More precisely, the atmosphere has alternating clockwise and counter-clockwise circulation. In between the overturning circulations are updrafts and downdrafts. If conditions are right for clouds to form, clouds will grow in the updraft zone and be suppressed in the downdraft. The resulting linear cloud features can persist for hours.

But just because these convective rolls are happening in the atmosphere does not necessarily mean there will be clouds. “The clouds themselves contribute little to the roll dynamics,” Foster said. “We think of these clouds as convenient flow visualizations.”

The hazy, vertical strip obscuring part of the image is sunlight mirrored from the ocean surface, known as “sunglint.”

The Gilbert Islands are a chain of sixteen atolls and coral islands in the Pacific Ocean about halfway between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii. (Source: Wikipedia)

Annotated image and further reading: NASA's Earth Observatory
Tour Earth's Clouds From Space

Image Credit: NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response
Caption Credit: Kathryn Hansen
Image Date: April 7, 2017
Release Date: May 1, 2017

#NASA #Earth #Science #Space #Satellite #Atmosphere #Clouds #Sunglint #GilbertIslands #Pacific #Ocean #Atolls #Islands #EarthObservation #RemoteSensing #Terra #MODIS #GSFC #Goddard #Greenbelt #Maryland #UnitedStates #STEM #Education

A cosmic conversation | Hubble

This image from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) shows a spiral galaxy NGC 5917, perhaps best known for its intriguing interactions with its neighboring galaxy MCG-01-39-003 (not visible here, but located off the bottom right of the frame—as seen here).

Mass is often confused with weight, but they are very different things. Mass is the very substance of an object and is something one always has, no matter the location. If you fly to the Moon and experience low-gravity conditions, your mass has not changed at all. What has actually changed is your weight, because weight is a force caused by the gravitational attraction of another massive body. Gravity is how objects with mass “talk” to one another. People do weigh less on the Moon, but not because they have lost any body mass—the mass of the Moon is less than that of the Earth, so it exerts a smaller gravitational pull on them.

Understanding mass is vital when it comes to understanding why objects behave the way they do in space. Without mass “talking” via gravity, the planets would not orbit the Sun, and galaxies would not interact as NGC 5917 does with its neighbor. Galaxy interactions can lead to very interesting effects; the galaxies can steal mass—in form of stars, dust and gas—from one another, distort and warp one another’s shape, or trigger immense waves of new star formation. Sometimes, a galactic duo interact so strongly that they end up colliding and merging completely. Unfortunately, if NGC 5917 is destined to merge with its celestial neighbour, it will happen much too far into the future for us to enjoy the spectacle.

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Release Date: May 1, 2017

#NASA #Hubble #Astronomy #Science #Galaxy #Spiral #NGC5917 #MCG0139003 #Gravity #Mass #Cosmos #Universe #HST #Telescope #ESA #GSFC #Goddard #STScI #History #STEM #Education

Bahamas Blue | International Space Station

ESA Astronaut Thomas Pesquet of France: "The end of Proxima nears, less than five weeks to go. So much work to do and not enough time fully appreciate the Bahamas blue. The current return date is June 2, but like everything in spaceflight it can change."

"La fin de la mission Proxima approche : plus que cinq semaines. Encore tellement de boulot... et pas assez de temps pour graver dans ma mémoire les bleus des Bahamas ! Le retour sur Terre est prévu pour le 2 juin - mais dans le spatial le calendrier peut changer..."

The Bahamas, officially the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, is an island country of the Lucayan Archipelago consisting of more than 700 islands, cays, and islets in the Atlantic Ocean; north of Cuba and Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic); northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands; southeast of the U.S. state of Florida and east of the Florida Keys. Its capital is Nassau on the island of New Providence. (Source: Wikipedia)

Credit: ESA/NASA
Capture Date: April 21, 2017

#NASA #ESA #ISS #Earth #Planet #Science #Bahamas #Island #Archipelago #Atlantic #Ocean #EarthObservation #Astronaut #ThomasPesquet #Proxima #Expedition51 #Technology #Photography #JSC #CNES #France #Europe #OverviewEffect #OrbitalPerspective #STEM #Education

Simulated image of an accreting black hole | European Southern Observatory

The event horizon is in the middle of the image, and the shadow can be seen with a rotating accretion disk surrounding it.

In general relativity, an event horizon is a boundary in spacetime beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer. In layman's terms, it is defined as the shell of "points of no return", i.e., the points at which the gravitational pull becomes so great as to make escape impossible, even for light. An event horizon is most commonly associated with black holes. Light emitted from inside the event horizon can never reach the outside observer. Likewise, any object approaching the horizon from the observer's side appears to slow down and never quite pass through the horizon, with its image becoming more and more redshifted as time elapses. This means that the wavelength is getting longer as the object moves away from the observer. The traveling object, however, experiences no strange effects and does, in fact, pass through the horizon in a finite amount of proper time. (Source: Wikipedia)

Credit: Bronzwaer/Davelaar/Moscibrodzka/Falcke/Radboud University
Acknowledgement: European Southern Observatory (ESO)

#ESO #Astronomy #Science #Space #BlackHole #Supermassive #Simulation #EventHorizon #Theory #Relativity #GeneralRelativity #Einstein #Astrophysics #Physics #Cosmos #Universe #STEM #Education #Visualization

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Testing general relativity with a supermassive black hole | European Southern Observatory

This infographic shows a simulation of the outflow (bright red) from a black hole and the accretion disk around it, with simulated images of the three potential shapes of the event horizon’s shadow. General relativity (GR, also known as the general theory of relativity or GTR) is the geometric theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1915 and the current description of gravitation in modern physics. General relativity generalizes special relativity and Newton's law of universal gravitation, providing a unified description of gravity as a geometric property of space and time, or spacetime. In particular, the curvature of spacetime is directly related to the energy and momentum of whatever matter and radiation are present. The relation is specified by the Einstein field equations, a system of partial differential equations.(Source: Wikipedia)

Credit: ESO/N. Bartmann/A. Broderick/C.K. Chan/D. Psaltis/F. OzelRelease Date: April 28, 2017

#ESO #Astronomy #Science #Space #BlackHole #Supermassive #Simulation #AccretionDisk #Theory #Relativity #GeneralRelativity #Einstein #Astrophysics #Physics #Cosmos #Universe #STEM #Education #Infographic #Visualization

Friday, March 17, 2017

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Dust Storm over North Africa | Suomi-NPP Earth Satellit

On February 21, 2017, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured this natural-color image of a large dust plume streaming from North Africa toward Europe and the Atlantic Ocean. Additional images of the storm, acquired on February 22 and February 23, are available.

Image Credit: NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response

Caption Credit: Adam Voiland

Image Date: February 21, 2017

Instrument(s): Suomi NPP - VIIRS

#NASA #Earth #Science #Satellite #Africa #NorthAfrica #Atmosphere #Planet #Dust #Storms #Weather #SuomiNPP #VIIRS #Education #STEM

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

NASA Telescope Reveals Largest Batch of Earth-Size, Habitable-Zone Planets Around Single Star

Feb. 22, 2017: NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.

The discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. All of these seven planets could have liquid water – key to life as we know it – under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone.

“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Answering the question ‘are we alone’ is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.”

At about 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) from Earth, the system of planets is relatively close to us, in the constellation Aquarius. Because they are located outside of our solar system, these planets are scientifically known as exoplanets. 

This exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1, named for The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile. In May 2016, researchers using TRAPPIST announced they had discovered three planets in the system. Assisted by several ground-based telescopes, including the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, Spitzer confirmed the existence of two of these planets and discovered five additional ones, increasing the number of known planets in the system to seven.

The new results were published Wednesday in the journal Nature, and announced at a news briefing at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Using Spitzer data, the team precisely measured the sizes of the seven planets and developed first estimates of the masses of six of them, allowing their density to be estimated.

Based on their densities, all of the TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely to be rocky. Further observations will not only help determine whether they are rich in water, but also possibly reveal whether any could have liquid water on their surfaces. The mass of the seventh and farthest exoplanet has not yet been estimated – scientists believe it could be an icy, "snowball-like" world, but further observations are needed.

"The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the first Earth-size planets that have been found orbiting this kind of star," said Michael Gillon, lead author of the paper and the principal investigator of the TRAPPIST exoplanet survey at the University of Liege, Belgium. "It is also the best target yet for studying the atmospheres of potentially habitable, Earth-size worlds."

In contrast to our sun, the TRAPPIST-1 star – classified as an ultra-cool dwarf – is so cool that liquid water could survive on planets orbiting very close to it, closer than is possible on planets in our solar system. All seven of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary orbits are closer to their host star than Mercury is to our sun. The planets also are very close to each other. If a person was standing on one of the planet’s surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighboring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in Earth's sky.

The planets may also be tidally locked to their star, which means the same side of the planet is always facing the star, therefore each side is either perpetual day or night. This could mean they have weather patterns totally unlike those on Earth, such as strong winds blowing from the day side to the night side, and extreme temperature changes.

Spitzer, an infrared telescope that trails Earth as it orbits the sun, was well-suited for studying TRAPPIST-1 because the star glows brightest in infrared light, whose wavelengths are longer than the eye can see. In the fall of 2016, Spitzer observed TRAPPIST-1 nearly continuously for 500 hours. Spitzer is uniquely positioned in its orbit to observe enough crossing – transits – of the planets in front of the host star to reveal the complex architecture of the system. Engineers optimized Spitzer’s ability to observe transiting planets during Spitzer’s “warm mission,” which began after the spacecraft’s coolant ran out as planned after the first five years of operations.

"This is the most exciting result I have seen in the 14 years of Spitzer operations," said Sean Carey, manager of NASA's Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California. "Spitzer will follow up in the fall to further refine our understanding of these planets so that the James Webb Space Telescope can follow up. More observations of the system are sure to reveal more secrets.”

Following up on the Spitzer discovery, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has initiated the screening of four of the planets, including the three inside the habitable zone. These observations aim at assessing the presence of puffy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres, typical for gaseous worlds like Neptune, around these planets.

In May 2016, the Hubble team observed the two innermost planets, and found no evidence for such puffy atmospheres. This strengthened the case that the planets closest to the star are rocky in nature.

"The TRAPPIST-1 system provides one of the best opportunities in the next decade to study the atmospheres around Earth-size planets," said Nikole Lewis, co-leader of the Hubble study and astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope also is studying the TRAPPIST-1 system, making measurements of the star's minuscule changes in brightness due to transiting planets. Operating as the K2 mission, the spacecraft's observations will allow astronomers to refine the properties of the known planets, as well as search for additional planets in the system. The K2 observations conclude in early March and will be made available on the public archive.

Spitzer, Hubble, and Kepler will help astronomers plan for follow-up studies using NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, launching in 2018. With much greater sensitivity, Webb will be able to detect the chemical fingerprints of water, methane, oxygen, ozone, and other components of a planet's atmosphere. Webb also will analyze planets' temperatures and surface pressures – key factors in assessing their habitability.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center, at Caltech, in Pasadena, California. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at Caltech/IPAC. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

For more information on the TRAPPIST-1 system, visit:

Credit: NASA/JPL
Release Date: February 22, 2017

#NASA #Astronomy #Exoplanets #Trappist #Earth #Astrobiology #Science #Water #Exploration #Discovery #JPL #Spitzer #STEM #Education

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

New Suits for Commercial Crew Astronauts on This Week @NASA

January 27, 2017: When NASA’s Commercial Crew Astronauts make their first trip to the International Space Station aboard Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, they’ll be outfitted in new custom-designed spacesuits. Astronauts Eric Boe and Suni Williams tried on the new suits, which were unveiled Jan. 25. In addition to meeting NASA’s requirements for safety and functionality, the new design weighs less and is more comfortable than earlier versions.

Also, Expedition 52/53 News Conference, Cargo Ship Departs the ISS, 50th Anniversary of Apollo 1 Fire and more!

Watch on Friends of NASA Google+:

Credit: NASA
Duration: 3 minutes
Release Date: January 27, 2017