NExSS Coalition Searches for Habitable Planets and Life Beyond Earth

Groundbreaking collaboration between sciences explores planetary zoo for candidates with the ingredients for life

The search for life beyond our solar system requires unprecedented cooperation across scientific disciplines. NASA's NExSS collaboration includes those who study Earth as a life-bearing planet (lower right), those researching the diversity of solar system planets (left), and those on the new frontier, discovering worlds orbiting other stars in the galaxy (upper right). Credits: NASA
The search for life beyond our solar system requires unprecedented cooperation across scientific disciplines. NASA’s NExSS collaboration includes those who study Earth as a life-bearing planet (lower right), those researching the diversity of solar system planets (left), and those on the new frontier, discovering worlds orbiting other stars in the galaxy (upper right).
Credits: NASA

Space news (June 06, 2015) – The human search for life beyond Earth reaches for new horizons this week with the announcement NASA’s bringing together space scientists spanning a variety of scientific fields to form Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS).

Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) brings together top research teams in Earth and planetary science and Helio and Astrophysics in an effort to determine the habitability of exoplanets discovered during the human journey to the beginning of space and time.

“This interdisciplinary endeavor connects top research teams and provides a synthesized approach in the search for planets with the greatest potential for signs of life,” says Jim Green, NASA’s Director of Planetary Science. “The hunt for exoplanets is not only a priority for astronomers, it’s of keen interest to planetary and climate scientists as well.”

Since the beginning of NASA’s Kepler Space Mission six years ago planet hunters have discovered 1852 exoplanets. Currently, there are another 4661 candidates detected by the Kepler Space Telescope, being examined closely for evidence to prove the existence of life beyond Earth. NExSS space scientists will develop techniques to confirm the habitability of these exoplanets by searching for ‘signs of life’.

Earth and planetary scientists, Heliophysicists and Astrophysicists use a “System Science” approach to better understand the ‘signs of life’ they need to look for on exoplanets discovered. They want to understand how life-on-Earth interacts with the atmosphere, geology, oceans and interior of the planet, and how this is affected by our sun. In an effort to develop better techniques to detect life on distant planets.

Dr. Paul Hertz, Director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA notes, “NExSS scientists will not only apply a systems science approach to existing exoplanet data, their work will provide a foundation for interpreting observations of exoplanets from future exoplanet missions such as TESS, JWST, and WFIRST.” The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is working toward a 2017 launch, with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) scheduled for launch in 2018. The Wide-field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is currently being studied by NASA for a launch in the 2020’s.

The search for life goes on

NExSS is led by Natalie Batalha of NASA’s Ames Research Center, Dawn Gelino of NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute, and Anthony del Genio of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. They’ll lead team members from ten universities and two research institutes as they search for exoplanets with signs of life.

Humans have searched for signs of life in the night sky for thousands of years and some claim to have met and interacted with extraterrestrial beings during this time.

Now, humans desire to meet and communicate with beings from another world, and NExSS is the next step towards finding the answer to the eternal question.

Are we alone in the universe?

To learn more about NExSS and the search for life visit here.

You can learn more about NASA’s space mission to the stars here.

Learn more about planets in four star systems

Read about NASA reaching out to private and business concerns to help enable the human desire to travel to Mars and beyond.

Learn how to calculate the orbits of asteroids within the Main Asteroid Belt.

Space Scientists Take a Closer Look at Lenticular Galaxies

To study how galaxies evolve and change over time 

Space information (February 03, 2015) – lenticular galaxies –

Lenticular galaxies are a class of galaxy space scientists have always considered to be an intermediate form between spiral and elliptical class galaxies. This type of galaxy is characterized by a prominent central bulge and disk, with no obvious arms like the Milky Way. More recently, space scientists are starting to think lenticular galaxies could be the end result of a collision between galaxies, resulting in the different varieties recorded during the human journey to the beginning of space and time.

The Hubble Space Telescope image below shows Arp 230 (IC 51), an oddly-shaped galaxy recorded in Halton Arp’s Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies, classified as a lenticular galaxy. NASA space scientists studying Arp 230 believe the funny-looking shape of this galaxy is the end result of a collision between two galaxies smaller than our own Milky Way.

This image shows Arp 230, also known as IC 51, observed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
This image shows Arp 230, also known as IC 51, observed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

The ring of light seen surrounding the galaxy is gas, dust, and stars orbiting the poles of the galaxy they call a polar ring. Space scientists think this is mainly composed of remnants of the smaller of the two colliding galaxies, which was perpendicular to the disk of the larger galaxy during their merger. Space scientists believe this would have resulted in the formation of the polar ring as the smaller galaxy was torn to pieces by the chaos.

NASA scientists and astronomers studying and classifying lenticular galaxies are now going over each galaxy in this classification to see if they can find more data to support their ideas. At the same time, they’ll begin conducting computer simulations using available data to obtain a better understanding of lenticular galaxies.

You can learn more about the Hubble Space Telescope here.

You can learn more about galaxies and their evolution here.

You can learn more about lenticular galaxies here.

Read about NASA seeking private and business partners to help enable the human journey to the beginning of space and time

Read about ancient dust with metal ions falling onto Mar’s atmosphere from Oort Cloud comet

Learn how to calculate the orbits of asteroids in the Main Asteroid Belt

NASA’s Curiosity Reaches Milestone

NASA's Curiosity spacecraft has showed us things about Mars we only guessed at
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is leading the human exploration of Mars

100,000 zaps and counting

Astronomy News (December 05, 2013) –

NASA astronomers believe Curiosity has found an ancient lake that once existed on Mars
The blue area represents the extent of ancient lake inside Gale Crater, according to NASA astronomers

Astronomy News – The human journey to the beginning of space and time reached another milestone today as NASA’s Curiosity spacecraft fired its infrared laser for the 100,000th time. Curiosity has been conducting an experiment to determine the basic chemical elements contained within martian rocks and soils using the Chemistry and Camera Instrument (ChemCam). ChemCam has fired more than 102,000 times as of December 01, 2013, at 420 martian rocks and soils, and taken over 1,600 HD pictures using its onboard camera.

It appears the surface of Mars inside Gale Crater has been exposed to wind blown sand and other forces
Curiosity’s Mastcam instrument took this image of the Glenelg area of Gale Crater showing sedimentary deposits which data indicates have only been exposed for 80 million years

At the moment, an international team of astronomers and scientists are going over the data provided by Curiosity and ChemCam in order to list the chemical elements contained within the 420 samples they fired the laser at. This will give them a good idea of the chemical elements on the surface of Mars’ Gale Crater and the geophysical processes that formed them. ChemCam fires an infrared laser at rocks and soil targets to create plasma gas, which it analysis using a scientific technique called laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy.

NASA scientists recently dated a Martian rock at between 3.86 and 4.56 billion years old
A rock in the Sheepbed Mudstone deposit of Gale Crater was the first Martian rock scientists measured the age of

Curiosity is the first NASA mission to use this scientific technique to analysis rocks and soils on a different planet, but certainly not the last. You can learn more about ChemCam at http://www.msl-chemcam.com.

You can find more on NASA’s Curiosity spacecraft and its mission to Mars at http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/. You can follow the Curiosity spacecraft mission on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity.

Take part in our astronomy poll below

Watch videos about Curiosity on YouTube here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIvbvV7RXp8.

Can NASA astronomers detect extraterrestrial moons orbiting distant suns? Read this article to find out https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/searching-for-extraterrestrial-moons/.

Read about the latest discovery in the search for life beyond Earth https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/25/the-search-for-life-beyond-earth-takes-a-turn-at-jupiter/.

Read about the latest images of the solar system sent back by the Cassini spacecraft https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/cassini-spacecraft-show-views-of-the-solar-system-in-natural-color/.

Astronomers View Rectangular Galaxy Never Seen Before

Astronomers discovered LEDA 07886 in images taken by the Subaru telescope
Astronomers discovered LEDA 07886 in images taken by the Subaru telescope

Astronomers studying galaxies have discovered something unusual

Astronomy news (November 29, 2013) – Astronomers have found galaxies of different shapes and sizes during the human journey to the beginning of space and time, but the rectangular-shaped galaxy astronomers recently located 68 million light-years away in Eridanus the River doesn’t fit any current theory of what a galaxy should look like. Leda 074886 is one of about 250 galaxies in the cluster of galaxies around the massive galaxy NGC 1407, which lies about 70 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Eridanus.

Astronomers wonder about this rectangular shape

Astronomers detected LEDA 074886 in a wide-field image taken with the Japanese Subaru Telescope. After analysis astronomers detected a stellar disk inside the rectangular-galaxy, aligned edge-on to our line of sight in the Milky Way. This disk is rotating at speeds up to 33 km/second, but at this point they’re not sure it has a spiral structure characteristic of a galaxy.

Astronomers classify galaxies according to their overall shape, using three general categories; elliptical, disk-like, and irregular. The unusual shape of the galaxy designated LEDA 074886 doesn’t fit into any of these three categories. The question astronomers are asking is how did this galaxy come to have this unusual shape?

Could this rectangular shaped galaxy be the result of a galactic collision?

Is the unusual shape of this galaxy due to a collision with another galaxy, perhaps between two spiral galaxies? Astronomers models indicate this scenario could possibly result in the stars of each galaxy flinging outward to form a rectangular shape. Astronomers also detected a disk of bluish, relatively young stars near the center of this galaxy, which they believe could indicate a recent collision with another small galaxy. This discovery should help astronomers model the formation and evolution of galaxies better and perhaps get a picture of the fated collision between the Milky Way and Andromeda 4 billion years from now.

Astronomers are wondering if LEDA 07886 is how our galaxy and Andromeda will look when they collide four billion years from now
Astronomers are wondering if LEDA 07886 is how our galaxy and Andromeda will look when they collide four billion years from now

Can NASA astronomers detect extraterrestrial moons orbiting distant suns? Read this article to find out https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/searching-for-extraterrestrial-moons/.

Read about the latest discovery in the search for life beyond Earth https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/25/the-search-for-life-beyond-earth-takes-a-turn-at-jupiter/.

Read about the latest images of the solar system sent back by the Cassini spacecraft https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/cassini-spacecraft-show-views-of-the-solar-system-in-natural-color/.

MACS 0647-JD could be the most distant galaxy viewed so far during the human journey to the beginning of space and time

Hubble Views Most Distant Galaxy Ever

MACS 0647-JD could be the most distant galaxy viewed so far during the human journey to the beginning of space and time
Astronomers looking at images of MACS 0647-JD believe it’s only about 600 light-years wide

The first galaxies

Astronomy news (November 28, 2013) – The Hubble Space Telescope, along with the light magnifying ability of the effect called gravitational lensing, has provided the first views of the most distant galaxy seen during the human journey to the beginning of space and time. The astronomers of the Cluster Lensing and Supernova Survey with Hubble (CLASH) recently discovered three gravity-lensed images of a galaxy that existed over 13.7 billions years ago taken using Hubble’s new panchromatic imaging capabilities. Designated MACS 0647-JD, this ancient star city is currently the most distant galaxy located to date using the Hubble Space Telescope and gravitational lensing.

Astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope and gravitational lensing to look at MACS 0647-JD
Astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to help view MACS 0647-JD

The CLASH program

The astronomers of CLASH used the Hubble Space Telescope to look at 25 distant galaxy clusters during the period from November 2010 to July 2013. They were looking for light which had been magnified due to the effect known as gravitational lensing as predicted by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. They wanted to detect additional Type Ia supernovae, map the distribution of dark matter in galaxy clusters, detect the most distant galaxies ever and study the internal structure and evolution of the galaxies in and behind these clusters.

The three gravity-lensed images taken by Hubble are of a small galaxy, now designated MACS 0647-JD, which could have been one of the first galaxies to exist in the universe. Astronomers’ analysis of the images suggests this small galaxy was less than 600 light-years across, which may indicate it was in the first stages of galaxy formation. In fact, this smaller galaxy may have been just one building block in the construction of a larger galaxy, and during the past 13.7 billions years could have been part of dozens, hundreds and even thousands of merging events with other galaxies.

Astronomers look at other possibilities

The astronomers of the Cluster Lensing and Supernova Survey with Hubble recently used the ability of NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to help rule out other possible identities of the three images they found. Next, astronomers will use the Spitzer Space Telescope, and other telescopes, to confirm the existence of the galaxy and try to get a better estimate of its age.

Astronomers hope to use the data they obtain from the study of galaxies like MACS 0647-JD to learn more about the early universe
Astronomers hope to use the James Webb Space Telescope to look even further back in time and space

Can NASA astronomers detect extraterrestrial moons orbiting distant suns? Read this article to find out https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/searching-for-extraterrestrial-moons/.

Read about the latest discovery in the search for life beyond Earth https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/25/the-search-for-life-beyond-earth-takes-a-turn-at-jupiter/.

Read about the latest images of the solar system sent back by the Cassini spacecraft https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/cassini-spacecraft-show-views-of-the-solar-system-in-natural-color/.