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Science@Ames
 
Space ScienceSpace Science @ Ames features research in infrared astrophysics, laboratory astrophysics, extrasolar planets, planetary sciences, exobiology, and astrobiology.
 
 
Earth ScienceEarth Science @ Ames features basic and applied research in atmospheric and biospheric sciences, and conducts airborne science campaigns.
 
 
Biological ScienceBioSciences @ Ames features research in fundamental space biology, and provides engineering and payload development for the International Space Station.
 
 
AstrobiologyAstrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe.
 
 
Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) addresses basic and applied scientific questions fundamental to understanding the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids, the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, and the near space environments of these target bodies.
 

 
Features
 
Kepler Mission Discovers Bigger, Older Cousin to Earth
July 23, 2015
 


NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet in the "habitable zone' around a sun-like star. This discovery and the introduction of 11 other new small habitable zone candidate planets mark another milestone in the journey to finding another "Earth.'

The newly discovered Kepler-452b is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone -- the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet -- of a G2-type star, like our sun. The confirmation of Kepler-452b brings the total number of confirmed planets to 1,030. "On the 20th anniversary year of the discovery that proved other suns host
planets, the Kepler exoplanet explorer has discovered a planet and star which most closely resemble the Earth and our Sun," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "This exciting result brings us one step closer to finding an Earth 2.0."
Kepler-452b has a diameter 60 percent larger than Earth and is considered a super-Earth-size planet. While its mass and composition are not yet determined, previous research suggests that planets the size of Kepler-452b have a good chance of being rocky.

While Kepler-452b is larger than Earth, its 385-day orbit is only 5 percent longer. The planet is 5 percent farther from its parent star Kepler-452 than Earth is from the Sun. Kepler-452 is 6 billion years old, 1.5 billion years older than our sun, has the same temperature, and is 20 percent brighter and has a diameter 10 percent larger.

"We can think of Kepler-452b as an older, bigger cousin to Earth, providing an opportunity to understand and reflect upon Earth"s evolving environment," said Jon Jenkins, Kepler data analysis lead at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, who led the team that discovered Kepler-452b. "It's awe-inspiring to consider that this planet has spent 6 billion years in the habitable zone of its star; longer than Earth. That"s substantial opportunity for life to arise, should all the necessary ingredients and conditions for life exist on this planet.'

To help confirm the finding and better determine the properties of the Kepler-452 system, the team conducted ground-based observations at the University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory, the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory on Mt. Hopkins, Arizona, and the W. M. Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. These measurements were key for the researchers to confirm the planetary nature of Kepler-452b, to refine the size and brightness of its host star and to better pin down the size of the planet and its orbit.

The Kepler-452 system is located 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. The research paper reporting this finding has been accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal.

In addition to confirming Kepler-452b, the Kepler team has increased the number of new exoplanet candidates by 521 from their analysis of observations conducted from May 2009 to May 2013, raising the number of planet candidates detected by the Kepler mission to 4,696. Candidates require follow-up observations and analysis to verify they are actual planets.

Twelve of the new planet candidates have diameters between one to two times that of Earth, and orbit in their star's habitable zone. Of these, nine orbit stars that are similar to our sun in size and temperature.

"We've been able to fully automate our process of identifying planet candidates, which means we can finally assess every transit signal in the entire Kepler dataset quickly and uniformly,' said Jeff Coughlin, Kepler scientist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, who led the analysis of a new candidate catalog. "This gives astronomers a statistically sound population of planet candidates to accurately determine the number of small, possibly rocky planets like Earth in our Milky Way galaxy.'

These findings, presented in the seventh Kepler Candidate Catalog, will be submitted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. These findings are derived from data publically available on the NASA Exoplanet Archive.

Scientists now are producing the last catalog based on the original Kepler mission's four-year data set. The final analysis will be conducted using sophisticated software that is increasingly sensitive to the tiny telltale signatures of Earth-size planets.

Ames manages the Kepler and K2 missions for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation operates the flight system with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

For more information about the Kepler mission, visit:
www.nasa.gov/kepler

Michele Johnson
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
650-604-6982
michele.johnson@nasa.gov


Felicia Chou Headquarters, Washington 202-358-0257 Felicia.chou@nasa.gov

Images: NASA


 
NASA Satellite Camera Provides “EPIC” View of Earth
July 23, 2015
 


Earth as seen on July 6, 2015 from a distance of one million miles by a NASA scientific camera aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory spacecraft. Credit: NASA


A NASA camera on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite has returned its first view of the entire sunlit side of Earth from one million miles away.

The color images of Earth from NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) are generated by combining three separate images to create a photographic-quality image. The camera takes a series of 10 images using different narrowband filters — from ultraviolet to near infrared — to produce a variety of science products. The red, green and blue channel images are used in these Earth images.

“This first DSCOVR image of our planet demonstrates the unique and important benefits of Earth observation from space,” said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. “As a former astronaut who’s been privileged to view the Earth from orbit, I want everyone to be able to see and appreciate our planet as an integrated, interacting system. DSCOVR’s observations of Earth, as well as its measurements and early warnings of space weather events caused by the sun, will help every person to monitor the ever-changing Earth, and to understand how our planet fits into its neighborhood in the solar system.”

These initial Earth images show the effects of sunlight scattered by air molecules, giving the images a characteristic bluish tint. The EPIC team now is working on a rendering of these images that emphasizes land features and removes this atmospheric effect. Once the instrument begins regular data acquisition, new images will be available every day, 12 to 36 hours after they are acquired by EPIC. These images will be posted to a dedicated web page by September.

“The high quality of the EPIC images exceeded all of our expectations in resolution,” said Adam Szabo, DSCOVR project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The images clearly show desert sand structures, river systems and complex cloud patterns. There will be a huge wealth of new data for scientists to explore.”

The primary objective of DSCOVR, a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Air Force, is to maintain the nation’s real-time solar wind monitoring capabilities, which are critical to the accuracy and lead time of space weather alerts and forecasts from NOAA.

“These new views of the Earth, a result of the great partnership between NOAA, the U.S. Air Force, and NASA, give us an important perspective of the true global nature of our spaceship Earth,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The satellite was launched in February and recently reached its planned orbit at the first Lagrange point or L1, about one million miles from Earth toward the sun. It’s from that unique vantage point that the EPIC instrument is acquiring science quality images of the entire sunlit face of Earth. Data from EPIC will be used to measure ozone and aerosol levels in Earth’s atmosphere, cloud height, vegetation properties and the ultraviolet reflectivity of Earth. NASA will use this data for a number of Earth science applications, including dust and volcanic ash maps of the entire planet.

In addition to space weather instruments, DSCOVR carries a second NASA sensor — the National Institute of Science and Technology Advanced Radiometer (NISTAR). Data from the NASA science instruments will be processed at the agency’s DSCOVR Science Operations Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. This data will be archived and distributed by the Atmospheric Science Data Center at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

The Air Force provided the Space X Falcon 9 rocket for the mission. NOAA operates DSCOVR from its Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Maryland, and processes the space weather data at its Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado.

NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives, and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.

For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/earth

For more information about DSCOVR, visit:

http://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/DSCOVR/

Posted by: Soderman/SSERVI Staff
Source: NASA



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