Among the methods astronomers have used to discover extra solar planets, the most successful is a technique called transit photometry. It measures changes in a star’s brightness caused when a planet crosses in front of its star along our line of sight.
Astronomers using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope have employed this technique to become the most successful planet-hunting spacecraft to date, with more than a thousand established discoveries and many more awaiting confirmation. Future missions carrying improved technology are now in the works.
How much can they tell us about alien planetary systems similar to our own?A great deal, according to a recently published study. It shows that in the best-case scenarios, these upcoming missions could uncover planetary moons, ringed worlds similar to Saturn, and even large collections of asteroids.
NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has used this technique to become the most successful planet-hunting spacecraft to date, with more than a thousand established discoveries and many more awaiting confirmation. Missions carrying improved technology are now planned, but how much more can they tell us about alien planetary systems similar to our own?
This is the story of a discovery made on St. Patrick’s Day, 2015. We learned just how much Mars is at the mercy of our sun. During a solar outburst that hit Mars that day, the NASA spacecraft Maven measured an accelerated loss of molecules in its upper atmosphere.
In its early days, Mars appears to have had enough surface water to cover the entire planet to a depth of 140 meters, and an atmosphere that was thick enough to hold it there. But a more active sun in those days began a long slow process of steadily eroding the Martian air and sending it out into space. The water dried up, and whatever life forms had developed had no chance to thrive and evolve on the surface.
Mars Express, the first planetary mission of the European Space Agency, was sent to the Red Planet in 2003. It sent a lander down to the surface, and although it failed to fully deploy , the orbiter has been taking pictures and mapping the surface ever since. It has produced high-resolution mineralogical maps, radar soundings of permafrost, and probing the composition of the atmosphere.
Its images, now released for general use, show the dramatic landscapes of Mars, sculpted by ancient volcanoes, water flows, and the scouring action of dust storms. Now we an revel in these cinematic images and imagine what it’s like to fly over the surface of Mars.
Decades before the Hubble Space Telescope, Dr. Edwin Powell Hubble revolutionised the field of astronomy. Take a look at the life and work of this brilliant American astronomer for whom the Hubble Space Telescope is named. From Hubblecast.
May 22nd, 2011. A powerful tornado cut a mile-wide swath through Joplin, Missouri. It was the costliest tornado disaster in history, with insured losses close to two billion dollars. It was also one of the deadliest, with 161 lives lost… and one thousand injured.
The scale of the Joplin disaster drew teams of scientists hoping to find out what made this storm so destructive. And what can be done to protect communities and people in the future. What did they learn by peering inside the violent realm of a Super Tornado?
This stirring film recounts the flight many consider to be NASA’s most daring and important. Interviews with Apollo 8 astronauts, their wives, mission control staff, and journalists take viewers inside the high-stakes space race of the late 1960s to reveal how a bold decision by NASA administrators put a struggling Apollo program back on track and allowed America to reach the moon before the Soviets.
As night falls, astronomers at Chile’s La Silla observatory are just starting their observations. Suddenly, a strange red flash of light appears on the horizon. An alert photographer is there to take a closer look! From ESO Cast.
Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit,” is an unmanned lunar rover that was part of the Chinese Chang’e 3 Moon mission. It reached the lunar surface in mid-December 2013. It was the first soft landing on the Moon since 1976, and the first rover to operate there since the Soviet Lunokhod 2 mission ended in May 1973.
Yutu encountered operational difficulties after about a month on the Moon, and was unable to move after the end of the second lunar night. It continued to gather useful information for some months afterward. In October 2015, Yutu set the record for the longest operational period for a rover on the Moon.
The Hubble Space Telescope got off to a rocky start after its April, 1990 deployment, when operators found that its high-gain antenna was mysteriously stuck. Then in 1994, it went on the fritz with Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on a beeline for Jupiter. Engineers have had to dig deep into their tool kits to confront a series of potentially fatal technical obstacles.