This artists conception of depicts multiple-transiting planet systems seen edge-on from the vantage point of the viewer

Kepler Mission Introduces 715 New Planets

This artists conception of depicts multiple-transiting planet systems seen edge-on from the vantage point of the viewer
This artist’s conception of depicts multiple-transiting planet systems seen edge-on from the vantage point of the viewer

Astronomy News –

NASA announced recently the Kepler mission had found another 715 planets orbiting distant stars. Astronomers determined these planets orbit a total of 305 stars, but this total could change after all the facts are in. This points to a lot more multiple planet-star systems, like our own solar system existing in the Milky Way.

NASA announced recently the Kepler mission had found another 715 planets orbiting distant stars. Astronomers determined these planets orbit a total of 305 stars, but this total could change after all the facts are in. This points to a lot more multiple planet-star systems, like our own solar system existing in the Milky Way.

NASA announced recently the Kepler mission had found another 715 planets orbiting distant stars. Astronomers determined these planets orbit a total of 305 stars, but this total could change after all the facts are in. This points to a lot more multiple planet-star systems, like our own solar system existing in the Milky Way.

Kepler-62f looks dark and foreboding in this artists conception of the exo-planet
Kepler-62f looks dark and foreboding in this artist’s conception of the exo-planet

Astronomers believe around 95 percent of these newly discovered planets are smaller than Neptune, which is nearly four times larger than Earth. This means Earth-size planets outside our own solar system are a lot more common than astronomers first thought.

Kepler-62e is depicted in this artists conception
Kepler-62e is depicted in this artist’s conception

“The Kepler team continues to amaze and excite us with their planet hunting results,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “That these new planets and solar systems look somewhat like our own, portends a great future when we have the James Webb Space Telescope in space to characterize the new worlds.”

Work still to be done

Astronomers have had two decades to work out a new way to identify planets among the thousands of star systems they examine using the Kepler Space Telescope and other instruments. The initial process involves laboriously doing a planet-by-planet analysis to determine if a candidate is a planet. Astronomers now use a statistical technique, which they apply to star systems they think have more than one planet.

Jack Lissauer, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, and a team of scientists analyzed star systems they think have more than one planet. All of these planet candidates were initially found in the first two years of the Kepler Mission – May 2009 to March 2011.

The statistical technique they used is called verification by multiplicity and it partly uses mathematical probability to determine if a candidate is a planet. Astronomers have observed that planets tend to be found together while stars like to roam on their own. If they find a candidate has two or more planet candidates, then it’s probably a star, with orbiting planets. Using these statistical technique astronomers were able to find these 715 new planets.

“Four years ago, Kepler began a string of announcements of first hundreds, then thousands, of planet candidates –but they were only candidate worlds,” said Lissauer. “We’ve now developed a process to verify multiple planet candidates in bulk to deliver planets wholesale, and have used it to unveil a veritable bonanza of new worlds.”

At least four of these new planets astronomers believe are only 2.5 bigger than Earth and orbit their home sun at a distance compatible with the possibility of life. Planets that fall within the habitable zone, or goldilocks zone, of their home star, are planets where water could exist in its various forms. Astronomers believe the temperature and conditions on these four planets could be suitable for biological life forms to exist.

This artists conception is of Kepler-69 and its possible solar system
This artist’s conception is of Kepler-69 and its possible solar system

The home star of one of these new planets called Kepler-296f, astronomers believe is only half the mass and 5 percent of our own Sun. Kepler-296f astronomers believe is at least twice the size of Earth and they’re wondering if it could be a gaseous world, with a thick soupy atmosphere, or possibly a water planet, with a life-sustaining ocean of water.

What’s next?

“From this study, we learn planets in these multi-systems are small and their orbits are flat and circular — resembling pancakes — not your classical view of an atom,” said Jason Rowe, a research scientist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., and co-leader of the research. “The more we explore the more we find familiar traces of ourselves amongst the stars that remind us of home.”

With the latest planets discovered, this puts the total number of planets the Kepler mission has found at around 1,700. Around 961 of these candidates, NASA is sure are planets. One day we will venture out into the unknown of space and land on one of these distant planets. Each planet we discover brings us closer to this day.

You can view the Stream feed here www.ustream.tv/channel/NASA-arc

For more information on the Kepler Space Telescope and its mission to discover planets visit: http://www.nasa.gov/kepler

Read this article on the year ahead for the human journey to the beginning of space and time

Read this article on the Chelyabinsk meteorite

Read this article on a supernova NASA thinks could have given birth to a black hole

Sources:

http://www.nasa.gov/ames/kepler/digital-press-kit-kepler-planet-bonanza

NASA Hosts Media Teleconference to Announce Latest Kepler Discoveries

NASA’s Kepler Mission Announces a Planet Bonanza, 715 New Worlds

All images and diagrams provided by NASA.

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SN 2014J is the newest supernova to be discovered by NASA

NASA’s Spitzer Telescope Stares into the Chaos of Supernova M82

SN 2014J is the newest supernova to be discovered by NASA
NASA’s Spitzer Telescope peers into the heart of chaos in Cigar Galaxy M82

Astronomy news (February 26, 2014)

The human journey to the beginning of space and time recently viewed the closest Type IA supernova found during modern times. The new supernova, called SN 2014J, is about 12 million light-years distant in the Cigar Galaxy M82, which is in the constellation Ursa Major.

This image of supernova SN 2014J taken by the Hubble Space telescope is stunning
The Hubble Space Telescope took this stunning image of SN2014J in M82

NASA’s Spitzer Telescope, along with legions of ground-based and orbiting telescopes, are currently peering directly into the heart of this supernova. Spitzer can peer through the dust and other debris between Earth and the new supernova, using specially designed infrared detectors and cameras. Combined with the data from the legions of ground-based and orbiting telescopes, NASA should be able to provide us with a stunning view of SN 2014J.

This image of M82 shows arrows pointing to supernova SN2014J
The arrows show where supernova SN2014J is located. This supernova is already brighter than the galaxy in which it resides

“At this point in the supernova’s evolution, observations in infrared let us look the deepest into the event,” said Mansi Kasliwal, Hubble Fellow and Carnegie-Princeton Fellow at the Observatories of the Carnegie Institution for Science and the principal investigator for the Spitzer observations. “Spitzer is really good for bypassing the dust and nailing down what’s going on in and around the star system that spawned this supernova.”

Follow the arrow to find supenova SN 2014J in the chaos of M82
Follow the arrow to find supernova SN 2014J in the chaos of M82

First viewed on January 21, 2014, by students and staff from University College London, SN 2014J is a Type IA supernova, which astronomers believe is a binary star system. Type IA supernovae are thought by astronomers to occur due to two possible scenarios. Either a white dwarf star pulls matter from a companion star until it reaches a threshold and explodes, or two white dwarf stars slowly spiral inward toward each other until they collide, creating a supernova explosion.

Type IA supernovae are important because they explode with almost the same amount of energy and with a uniform peak brightness. Astronomers use Type IA supernovae as standard candles, which allows them to measure distances to nearby galaxies more accurately. Further study of supernova SN 2014J will help astronomers understand the processes producing this type of supernova and determine interesting facts concerning other types of supernovas.

NASA astronomers are currently using the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-Ray Observatory, Nuclear Spectroscopy Telescope Array (NuSTAR), Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer to take a closer look at supernova SN 2014J.

The Spitzer Space Telescope is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC. You can read the full article here.

Watch this YouTube video on thirty years of NASA’s Spitzer Telescope https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqqJjwsl_SQ&list=PL6vzpF_OEV8n6PDm2iiXkqBKQC2iHyrzC

Read this article on the search for life Beyond Earth

Read this article on the images sent back by the Cassini Spacecraft of the solar system

Read this article on the year ahead for the human journey to the beginning of space and time

All images and diagrams used with permission of NASA.

Binotron-27 astronomy binoculars

Binotron-27 Binoviewers

Astronomy Products

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  • New Diopter adjusters allow each eye to focus individually without rotating the eyepieces

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  • A beautiful finish and lightweight rubber coatings make the new Binotron-27 easy on the eyes

  • New 27mm Aperture Prisms allows for superior dielectric coating of the 26mm clear aperture prism surfaces

  • Available as new Binotron-27 Super System. This system focuses at three magnifications on any telescope type using their Patented Optical Corrector/Power X Switch System

Check out everything Denkmeier has to offer the amateur or professional astronomer

Read my review of the CDK17 telescope

Want to know why astronomy binoculars are the best choice

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Collimating the Binotron-27

The CDK17 is a finely tuned telescope

PlaneWave Instruments CDK17 Telescope

Founded in 2006 by Joseph Haberman and Richard Hedrick, PlaneWave Instruments  produces high-quality Corrected Dall-Kirkham (CDK) telescopes for the serious amateur astronomer. PlaneWave Instruments offers Dall-Kirkham telescopes in 12.5-inch f/8, 14-inch f/7.2, 17-inch f/6.8, 20-inch f/6.8, 24-inch f/6.8 and 28-inch f/6.5 versions.

The CDK17 is a finely tuned telescope
A truly amazing telescope, PlaneWave Instruments CDK17 takes breathtaking images of the cosmos

Astronomy Products – product reviews: CDK17; Planewave Instruments

For this review, I tested the CDK17, a 17-inch f/6.8 Corrected Dall-Kirkham telescope. I placed this telescope on a Paramount MEII mount and set it up in my friend’s dark backyard observatory twenty miles outside Prince George, British Columbia.

The CDK17 telescope includes a quartz primary mirror and field-flattening two-element corrector lens in the primary baffle tube. In other telescopes employing this design reviewed in the past it was difficult to keep the corrector lens clean in the baffle tube. The designers made it easy to take the corrector lens out in this model, all you do is unscrew the baffle tube and take the lens out.

The CDK17 includes a dual carbon-fiber truss design, with 4 fans blowing across the boundary layer of the surface of the mirror, and 3 cooling fans ejecting air from the back of the telescope.

The CDK17 consists primarily of three parts: an ellipsoidal primary mirror, a spherical secondary mirror, and a lens group.

The telescope we used also included a 3.5-inch Hedrick Focuser, Electronic Focuser Accessory, Paramount MEII, Paramount Versa Plate Accessory,  extension bar and two counterweights.

Total price: $38,674

Performance

Collimating the CDK17 was very easy and forgiving if you are a little inexact. I was very impressed with the images of stars from corner to corner on a giant 40mm by 40mm CCD 16803 CCD chip. Even when I turned the telescope upside down, the stars remained perfectly focused.

Just take a look at the images I took below. They show no degradation due to coma, astigmatism or field curvature. The fields of stars shot through the CDK17 indicate this is one special telescope.

M83 is a small pinwheel galaxy located in the constellation Hydra
M83 is a small pinwheel galaxy located in the constellation Hydra
NGC 6960 is called the Veil Nebula, a supernova remnant in the constellation Cygnus
NGC 6960 is called the Veil Nebula, a supernova remnant in the constellation Cygnus
NGC 6888 is called the Crescent Nebula
NGC 6888 is called the Crescent Nebula

Twin CDK17 telescopes viewing the universe

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