Its Alive!!!

Kepler lives again.

And instyle, the planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft discovered the first exoplanet  using its new mission — K2.

Kepler's Second Light: How K2 Will Work

The K2 mission uses the disabled Kepler to detect habitable planets around smaller, dimmer red dwarf stars.

K2 Small Planet Yield

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Last summer, the possibility of a scientifically productive mission for Kepler after its reaction wheel failure in its extended mission was not part of the conversation,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s astrophysics division director at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “Today, thanks to an innovative idea and lots of hard work by the NASA and Ball Aerospace team, Kepler may well deliver the first candidates for follow-up study by the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize the atmospheres of distant worlds and search for signatures of life.”

Andrew Vanderburg

Lead researcher Andrew Vanderburg, a graduate student at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studied publicly available data collected by the spacecraft during a test of K2 in February 2014.

The discovery was confirmed with measurements taken by the HARPS-North spectrograph of the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo in the Canary Islands, which captured the wobble of the star caused by the planet’s gravitational tug as it orbits.

The newly confirmed planet, HIP 116454b, 180 light-years from Earth in the constellation Pisces, is 2.5 times the diameter of Earth and has a nine-day orbit around a star that is smaller and cooler than our sun.

The K2 mission promises to not only continue Kepler’s planet hunt, but also to expand the search to bright nearby stars that harbor planets that can be studied in detail and better understand their composition. K2 also will introduce new opportunities to observe star clusters, active galaxies and supernovae.

Since the K2 mission officially began in May 2014, it has observed more than 35,000 stars and collected data on star clusters, dense star-forming regions, and several planetary objects within our own solar system. It is currently in its third campaign.

For more information about the Kepler mission, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/kepler

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +, or by email.

Norman

Oldest Planets Found.

Data from the venerable Kepler mission has uncovered the oldest know planets that we have found to date.

Kepler-444 is 11.2 billion years old and has five Earth-sized planets in orbit.

The five planets are a little smaller than Earth.

Additionally, they are way too close to their sun (about 1/10 the distance, or about 9 million miles, of the Earth-Sun orbit).  This makes it unlikely that they could hold life as we know it.  But, we don’t have a very good definition of what life is.

But the star and its planets is fairly amazing due to the age.  Only 117 light years from Earth, Kepler-444 is five times older than our solar system, so it formed very shortly after the big bang.  The age is measured using a technique called asteroseismology, which measures the oscillations of a star caused by sound waves trapped within it.  These sound waves cause small pulses in the star’s brightness, which are analyzed to measure its diameter, mass and age.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +, or by email.

Norman

The Challenge In Finding New Earth-Like Exoplanets.

A couple of things happened this month that may make it easier to find other Earth-like planets.

Probably the more important of the two was that for the first time, a ground based telescope has found a super Earth orbiting around 55 Cancri.

The Nordic Optical Telescope on the island of La Palma, Spain was used to find the planet.  The telescope is only 2.5-meters, not large compared to a great many other telescopes, but it does have all the equipment necessary for the task.  Prior to this success, scientists had to wait for time or data from one of the space based telescopes to get data.  You can imagine the waiting line for that to happen.

55 Cancri is located 40 light-years away and is visible to the naked eye. During its transit, the planet crosses 55 Cancri and blocks 1/2000th (about 0.05%) of the stars light for almost two hours. Given what we know about the star, it means that the planet is about twice the size of Earth.

The other innovation that happened is that Cornell University’s Institute for Pale Blue Dots has shown where ( and when) other Earths are most likely to be found.  BTW, that tiny, tiny spot is the Earth as seen from Saturn, not even half way out of the solar system.  Now don’t your problems seem a little smaller?

What makes this research so important is that young Earth like planets will be forming farther out away from their stars.  That gives another location to look in developing systems, like the Pleiadies. A big as space is, knowing where to look is half the battle (just ask the Dark Matter/Energy people…they are still in the dark!!! Get it!! Oh, I slay me sometimes….and I digress easily).

So now it is possible for ground based telescopes to find exoplanets, and research know where to look.  Kepler may have started the avalanche of new planet discoveries, but there are a lot more to find.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +, or by email.

Norman

ESA’s Spacecraft On Track To Find Even More Planets.

The recently launched Gaia spacecraft could detect could 21,000 exoplanets during its five year mission to construct a 3D space catalog of approximately 1 billion astronomical objects.

 

When Gaia reached its final mission point, the spacecraft literally turned its back on us.

That’s because the Sun  shade, deployed after launch, generates power for the craft and blocks the sunlight, giving the optics a perfect view of the galaxy.

Although its primary mission is to map stars, a byproduct of all the images taken will be data that can be attributed to exoplanets.  Due to the accuracy of the images that GAIA will take, a lot of new science is bound to be discovered.  Researchers haven’t even finished processing the data from Kepler, so this will keep everyone busy even longer.

Exciting times ahead.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Kepler Data Reveals Two Potential Habitable Candidates.

A team of scientists pouring over the data, from the crippled Kepler spacecraft, have found two more potential Earth-like planets about 1,200 light years from here.

What makes the two Kepler-62 planets interesting is that they are in the same system.

Kepler-62 has five total planets (that we have found) with 62e and 62f being in the “Goldilocks” zone.  The habitable zone is area in a planetary system where the surface temperature of a planet could allow for liquid water.  Not too hot, not too cold, just right.

Kepler-69 and the Solar System

Depending on the size, type and composition of the sun in any planetary system, the habitable zone can be farther out, or closer in.  So there are a lot of possible variations of the habitable zone.

At least that is how the theory goes.  If you are looking for life similar to what exists on Earth, you search for similarities.  That isn’t to say that the infinite diversity of the Universe couldn’t produce other forms of life, we just wouldn’t know what we were looking for, so, for now, we are looking for other, similar planets to Earth.  The habitable zone also applies to the galaxy as well.  Too close to the center, there is too much radiation for life as we know it, to exist.  There may even be a Universal habitable zone, or cluster habitable zone, it is too early to tell.

If this keeps up, Kepler may rival its cousin Hubble for the amount of new discoveries.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

The First of Many?

The disabled spacecraft Kepler is really the gift that keeps on giving, much like the food poisoning that I have been suffering through since Sunday (Thanks Taco Bell, I didn’t know my order came with a free side of botulism!).

Kepler-186f

Image Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

Analyzing data already gathered researchers have announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, an Earth sized planet orbiting in the habitable zone of the sun in the Kepler-186 system.

Could this be another Earth?  Nobody knows yet, the only thing that we know for sure is the planet’s orbit and size.  All the other important discoveries will have to be determined.

Using a technique that our most recent speaker at the Riverside Astronomical Society explained last month, scientists can look for Earth-like planets by looking as smaller suns.  That way, smaller planets appear larger than with large suns.

Kepler-186 is an M dwarf, or red dwarf, a class of stars that makes up 70 percent of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy, and only has about half mass of our sun.  Proportionally, the light and heat given by a red dwarf are significantly less than our own star.

Now that they have the technique down, scientists want to find Earth’s twin.  A much more daunting task given that Kepler only took data on 150,000 stars.  However, if they find one (or more), that to will be another piece of the puzzle.

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 10.13.14 PM

Image Credit, www.buildtheenterprise.org.

Now all we need is for someone to fund building the Enterprise, cause once they find Earth 2, people may want to go visit.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman