Showing blog posts tagged with NASA
by AMNH on
Geologist Harold C. Connolly, a research associate in the Museum’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, will oversee sample analysis on the first U.S. mission to collect material from an asteroid and bring it to Earth for study.
NASA announced the new mission-which is called Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx-in late May as the third mission in its New Frontiers Program. An unmanned spacecraft will be launched in 2016 to the near-Earth asteroid 1999 RQ36 and will travel for four years to its destination. After OSIRIS-REx performs surface mapping of the asteroid—a process that may take up to 505 days—Connolly will be responsible for recommending locations most suitable for sampling.
“We will narrow it down to several choices to select the best location based on low risk to the spacecraft and on chemical signatures” found during surface mapping, says Connolly, who is also professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the City University of New York.
by AMNH on
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.