BEST ASTRONOMY

Space / Astronomy News and Articles

Fri07282017

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University Of Arizona Scientists Are First To Discover Debris Disk Around Star Orbited By Planet

— Planetary scientists have discovered the first circumstellar disk ever seen around a star like our sun, a star known to be orbited by a planet. The system is more like our solar system than any yet found.

The disk of material is around 55 Cancri, a sun-like star, barely visible to the human eye, about 40 light years away in the constellation Cancer. The disk of material around the star looks similar in many ways...

— Planetary scientists have discovered the first circumstellar disk ever seen around a star like our sun, a star known to be orbited by a planet. The system is more like our solar system than any yet found.

The disk of material is around 55 Cancri, a sun-like star, barely visible to the human eye, about 40 light...

Dawn Spacecraft Glides Into New Year

BestAstronomy (Nov. 24, 2008) — NASA's Dawn spacecraft shut down its ion propulsion system this week as scheduled. The spacecraft is now gliding toward a Mars flyby in February of next year.  

"Dawn has completed the thrusting it needs to use Mars for a gravity assist to help get us to Vesta," said Marc Rayman, Dawn's chief engineer, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Dawn will now coast in its orbit around the sun for the next half a year before we...

Dwarf Planet Eris Is More Massive Than Pluto

— Aptly named after the Greek goddess of conflict, the icy dwarf planet, Eris, has rattled the general model of our solar system. The object was discovered by astronomer Mike Brown of Caltech in the outer reaches of the Kuiper belt in 2005.

Its detection provoked debate about Pluto’s classification as a planet. Eris is slightly larger than Pluto.

So if Pluto qualified as a full-fledged planet, then Eris certainly...

— Aptly named after the Greek goddess of conflict, the icy dwarf...

Supersized Planet Or Oasis In The 'Brown Dwarf Desert'?

BestAstronomy (May 30, 2007) — The latest find from an international planet-hunting team of amateur and professional astronomers is one of the oddest extrasolar planets ever cataloged -- a mammoth orb more than 13 times the mass of Jupiter that orbits its star in less than four days.

Researchers from the U.S.-based XO Project unveiled the planet, XO-3b, at today's American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu. Christopher Johns-Krull, a Rice University astronomer and...

Mission Could Seek Out Spock's Home Planet

— Science fiction may soon become science fact.

Astronomers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have recently concluded that the upcoming planet-finding mission, SIM PlanetQuest, would be able to detect an Earth-like planet around the star 40 Eridani, a planet familiar to "Star Trek" fans as "Vulcan." 40 Eridani, a triple-star system 16 light-years from Earth, includes a red-orange K dwarf star slightly smaller and...

— Science fiction may soon become science fact.

Astronomers...

First Directly Imaged Brown Dwarf Companion To An Exoplanet Host Star

BestAstronomy (Oct. 19, 2006) — Astronomers have detected a new faint companion to the star HD 3651, already known to host a planet. This companion, a brown dwarf, is the faintest known companion of an exoplanet host star imaged directly and one of the faintest T dwarfs detected in the Solar neighbourhood so far. The detection yields important information on the conditions under which planets form.

"Such a system is an interesting example that might prove that planets and...

Scientists Snap First Images Of Brown Dwarf In Planetary System

BestAstronomy (Sep. 18, 2006) — Scientists using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have discovered and directly imaged a small brown dwarf star, 50 times the mass of Jupiter, orbiting with a planet around a Sun-like star. Such an arrangement has never before been seen but might be common, the scientists say, leading to solar systems with distorted planetary orbits.

Kevin Luhman of Penn State University is the lead author on a report describing this discovery, which will be...

Dwarf Planet Formerly Known As Xena Officially Named 'Eris'

— The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has announced that the dwarf planet known as Xena since its 2005 discovery has been named Eris, after the Greek goddess of discord.

Eris's moon will be known as Dysnomia, the demon goddess of lawlessness and the daughter of Eris.

The names are those suggested by the discoverers of the dwarf planet--Mike Brown, a professor of planetary astronomy at the California Institute of...

— The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has announced that...

Planet Or Failed Star? One Of Smallest Stellar Companions Seen By Hubble

BestAstronomy (Sep. 8, 2006) — Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have photographed one of the smallest objects ever seen around a normal star beyond our Sun. Weighing in at 12 times the mass of Jupiter, the object is small enough to be a planet. The riddle is that it is also large enough to be a brown dwarf, a failed star.

The Hubble observation of the diminutive companion to the low-mass red dwarf star CHRX 73 is a dramatic reminder that astronomers do not...

Pluto Downgraded To 'Dwarf Planet' Status; Solar System Now Has Eight Planets

— The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has downgraded the status of Pluto to that of a "dwarf planet," a designation that will also be applied to the spherical body discovered last year by California Institute of Technology planetary scientist Mike Brown and his colleagues. The decision means that only the rocky worlds of the inner solar system and the gas giants of the outer system will hereafter be designated ...

— The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has downgraded the...

Bigger Solar System? Astronomers Debate Definition Of 'Planet' And 'Plutons'

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The world's astronomers, under the auspices of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), have concluded two years of work defining the difference between "planets" and the smaller "solar system bodies" such as comets and asteroids. If the definition is approved by the astronomers gathered 14-25 August 2006 at the IAU General Assembly in Prague, our Solar System will include 12 planets, with more to come: eight...

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The world's astronomers, under the auspices of the...

New Capture Scenario Explains Origin Of Neptune's Oddball Moon Triton

— SANTA CRUZ, CA--Neptune's large moon Triton may have abandoned an earlier partner to arrive in its unusual orbit around Neptune. Triton is unique among all the large moons in the solar system because it orbits Neptune in a direction opposite to the planet's rotation (a "retrograde" orbit). It is unlikely to have formed in this configuration and was probably captured from elsewhere.

In the May 11 issue of the...

— SANTA CRUZ, CA--Neptune's large moon Triton may have abandoned an...

Hubble Finds 'Tenth Planet' Is Slightly Larger Than Pluto

— NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has resolved the "tenth planet," nicknamed "Xena" for the first time, and has found that it is only just a little larger than Pluto.

Though previous ground-based observations suggested that Xena was about 30 percent greater in diameter than Pluto, Hubble observations taken on Dec. 9 and 10, 2005, yield a diameter of 1,490 miles (with an uncertainty of 60 miles) for Xena. Pluto's...

— NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has resolved the "tenth planet," nicknamed...

Ideas On Gas-giant Planet Formation Take Shape

BestAstronomy (Mar. 22, 2006) — Rocky planets such as Earth and Mars are born when small particles smash together to form larger, planet-sized clusters in a planet-forming disk, but researchers are less sure about how gas-giant planets such as Jupiter and Saturn form. Is core accretion--the process that creates their smaller, terrestrial cousins--responsible? Or could an alternate model known as disk instability--in which the planet-forming disk itself actually fragments into a number...

Two New Dusty Planetary Disks May Be Astrophysical Mirrors Of Our Kuiper Belt

— A survey by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope of 22 nearby stars has turned up two with bright debris disks that appear to be the equivalent of our own solar system's Kuiper Belt, a ring of icy rocks outside the orbit of Neptune and the source of short-period comets.

The debris disks encircling these stars fall into two categories - wide and narrow belts - that appear to describe all nine stars, including the sun,...

— A survey by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope of 22 nearby stars has...

Kuiper Belt Moons Are Starting To Seem Typical

— In the not-too-distant past, the planet Pluto was thought to be an odd bird in the outer reaches of the solar system because it has a moon, Charon, that was formed much like Earth's own moon was formed. But Pluto is getting a lot of company these days. Of the four largest objects in the Kuiper belt, three have one or more moons.

"We're now beginning to realize that Pluto is one of a small family of similar objects,...

— In the not-too-distant past, the planet Pluto was thought to be...

Hubble Reveals Possible New Moons Around Pluto

— Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to view the ninth planet in our solar system, astronomers discovered Pluto may have not one, but three moons.

If confirmed, the discovery of the two new moons could offer insights into the nature and evolution of the Pluto system; Kuiper Belt Objects with satellite systems; and the early Kuiper Belt. The Kuiper Belt is a vast region of icy, rocky bodies beyond Neptune's orbit.

"If,...

— Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to view the ninth planet...

Astronomers Confirm The First Image Of A Planet Outside Of Our Solar System

BestAstronomy (Apr. 30, 2005) — An international team of astronomers reports April 29 the confirmation of the discovery of a giant planet, approximately five times the mass of Jupiter, that is gravitationally bound to a young brown dwarf. This discovery puts an end to a yearlong discussion on the nature of this object, which started with the detection of a red object close to the brown dwarf.

In February and March of this year, the astronomers took new images of the young brown...

Astronomers Discover Beginnings Of 'Mini' Solar System

— Moons circle planets, and planets circle stars. Now, astronomers have learned that planets may also circle celestial bodies almost as small as planets.

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted a dusty disk of planet-building material around an extraordinarily low-mass brown dwarf, or "failed star." The brown dwarf, called OTS 44, is only 15 times the mass of Jupiter. Previously, the smallest brown dwarf known to...

— Moons circle planets, and planets circle stars. Now, astronomers...

Hubble’s Infrared Eyes Home In On Suspected Extrasolar Planet

— Unique follow up observations carried out with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope are providing important supporting evidence for the existence of a candidate planetary companion to a relatively bright young brown dwarf star located 225 light-years away in the southern constellation Hydra.

Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile detected a planet candidate in April 2...

— Unique follow up observations carried out with the NASA/ESA...

Cassini VIMS Team Finds That Phoebe May Be Kin To Comets

— Scientists may at last have settled the debate on the origin of Saturn's moon, Phoebe.

Saturn long ago captured its largest outermost satellite, Phoebe, when the moon wandered in from the frigid region beyond the orbit of Neptune called the Kuiper belt, they conclude.

The scientists analyzed results from the Cassini Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) taken during the June 11 Cassini spacecraft's...

— Scientists may at last have settled the debate on the origin of...