Technology Development: Currently, astronomers can investigate Earth-sized exoplanets using only indirect methods such as detecting the changes in starlight as a planet passes in front of its star. The starshade (also known as an external occulter) is a spacecraft that will enable telescopes in... Read More
When the Space Age began, explorers were eager to visit the planets of the solar system. As the years have passed, however, astronomers have realized that the moons of the solar system may be even more interesting.
With its blue skies, puffy white clouds, warm beaches and abundant life, planet Earth is a pretty special place. A quick survey of the solar system reveals … nothing else like it.
But how special is Earth, really?
Deep in the heart of California's Owens Valley, a strange-looking telescope stands in the desert landscape listening for echos of distant stars.
In 1947, shortly after the end of World War II, a young radio astronomer in Australia named Ruby Payne-Scott was observing the sun when a tremendous roar of static issued from the loudspeaker of her radio telescope. Almost 70 years later, astronomers are still marveling at the outburst.
“It was... Read More
Astronomers have long hoped to find another planet in the cosmos similar to Earth--a blue dot in the distance that could harbor life akin to our own. NASA's Kepler spacecraft may have found the next best thing.
NASA’s Kepler spacecraft is a prolific hunter of planets outside of our Solar System. Since it launched in 2009, Kepler has confirmed more than 1000 of these exoplanets and catalogued thousands of more candidates. The menagerie includes planets with densities greater than iron and... Read More