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Showing blog posts tagged with "Exoplanets"

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From the Field: Sunsets, Sunrises, and Studying Stars

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Blogging from the Kitt Peak National Observatory in the Sonoran desert in Arizona, Jackie Faherty, a research scientist in the Museum’s Department of Astrophysics, is on an observing trip this month to study brown dwarfs and low-mass stars that are potential hosts to exoplanets. A major new exhibition about the future of space exploration opens at the Museum this fall.

One of the rituals that I follow without fail at a telescope is watching the sunset and sunrise.  It is an essential part of any observing run and a wonderful marker of how our work night begins and ends. Night five at Kitt Peak provided a spectacular sunset, with perfect pink and red puffy clouds on the horizon. This is actually terrible for observing as the pesky clouds interfere with collecting data from way out in the cosmos. Luckily, a few hours into the evening the majority of weather blew off, and I was able to take high-quality data.

Tags: Exoplanets

NASA’s Kepler Astronomer Geoff Marcy Discusses Latest Exoplanet Discoveries

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Astronomers associated with NASA’s Kepler observatory have announced the discovery of more than 1,200 new candidate exoplanets. Michael Shara, a curator in the Museum’s Department of Astrophysics, writes about the significance of the findings below.

Does life exist anywhere in the universe except on Earth?  “Star Trek” may have convinced much of the public that the universe is teeming with technological civilizations, but the correct answer is: We don’t know for certain if life–even bacterial life — exists anywhere except on Earth.  A critical challenge in answering this question is determining whether planets — especially Earth-like planets — orbit other stars.

The search for Earth-like planets has just taken a giant leap forward, thanks in part to the tireless work of the dozens of astronomers associated with NASA’s Kepler observatory.  Their quest to find exoplanets — planets orbiting stars other than our Sun — has been a stunning success.  It is now certain that planets are as common stars.

Fifteen years ago the University of California, Berkeley’s Geoff Marcy and a handful of colleagues began an almost quixotic quest for exoplanets.  Dozens, and then hundreds of astronomers joined the quest after Geneva’s Michel Mayor, Marcy, and their colleagues began reporting the first discoveries.  Herculean efforts led to the cataloguing of 500 exoplanets by the end of 2010.  Now the Kepler team has announced the discovery of more than 1,200 new candidate exoplanets, and enough details about each of these new worlds to begin to draw far-reaching conclusions about abodes for life in the universe.

Tags: Astronomy Live!, Exoplanets, NASA, Rose Center for Earth and Space, Space Exploration

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