Technology The Planet That Took Us Beyond the Solar System

11:54  17 april  2018
11:54  17 april  2018 Source:   The Atlantic

NASA's new planet-hunter to seek closer, Earth-like worlds

  NASA's new planet-hunter to seek closer, Earth-like worlds NASA is poised to launch a $337 million washing machine-sized spacecraft that aims to vastly expand mankind's search for planets beyond our solar system, particularly closer, Earth-sized ones that might harbor life. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, is scheduled to launch Monday at 6:32 pm (2232 GMT) atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Its main goal over the next two years is to scan more than 200,000 of the brightest stars for signs of planets circling them and causing a dip in brightness known as a transit.

Introduction. The Latest: There are many planets beyond our own, and we know about some of them thanks to the help of citizen scientists. Ten Things to Know - Beyond Our Solar System . 1. The 1980 television series Cosmos, featuring Voyager mission scientist Carl Sagan, took viewers on a

So why take a look at the Solar System ? What can it teach us ? 5. But the Solar System is bigger than you think. Beyond the orbit of Neptune (the furthermost planet ), it takes a long time to leave the Solar System .

  The Planet That Took Us Beyond the Solar System © NASA / JPL-Caltech For millennia, the only planets we knew of were the ones in our own solar system. That changed in October 1995, when a pair of Swiss astrophysicists discovered a planet orbiting a sun-like star about 50 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Pegasus. For decades, scientists had suspected that other planets existed in the cosmos, and they finally had the proof.

The discovery of 51 Pegasi b, as it was called, was just the beginning. The astronomy community was witnessing “A Parade of New Planets,” declared a headline in Scientific American in 1996. In the months since the exoplanet discovery had been announced, the publication reported, astronomers had reported finding at least four more planets.

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A number of multiple planetary systems , some potentially not so different from our own solar system , have been discovered. “Potentially, Earth-like planets are very common, however, their observation remains beyond our current capabilities,” he added.

Date Taken . Mini planetary system (artist's concept). Gaia's first galaxy map. Artist's impression of planet Proxima Centauri b. Donate to The Planetary Society. Together we will create a future in space exploration.

More than two decades later, the parade is still going. Today, there are 3,717 known exoplanets, and nearly 4,500 other suspected exoplanets waiting to be verified. More than 900 of them are thought to have a rocky surface like Earth’s.

On Wednesday, NASA will launch a new spacecraft designed to discover still more exoplanets. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, will spend two years surveilling more than 200,000 stars, watching for evidence of planets around them.

TESS will employ a method different than the one that was used to discover 51 Pegasi b, but the spacecraft owes a great deal to the first known exoplanet. Without 51 Pegasi b, astrophysicists may not have seriously considered the technology that should allow TESS to find thousands of new planets in the Milky Way.

SpaceX blasts off NASA's new planet-hunter, TESS

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The Solar System is more massive than most of us can even comprehend. (Image source: The Nine Planets Solar System Tour). Objects beyond Neptune are called Trans-Neptunian Objects, or TNOs. How much time does it take for an earthly spacecraft to reach the next solar system after it

What have we learned about the distant objects in our Solar System beyond Neptune in the past year? This “gravitational sculpting” by Neptune or the other giant planets is fairly random over timescales comparable to the age of the solar system .

In 1995, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, both at the University of Geneva, were trying to find exoplanets with a technique called the radial-velocity method. Sometimes, when a planet orbits a star, the planet’s gravity causes the star to wobble ever so slightly. The wobbling motion produces shifts in the star’s light, which can be detected with special instruments from Earth. By studying these shifts, astrophysicists can figure out the mass of a planet and how long it takes to complete one orbit around its star.

Back then, some were skeptical that the radial-velocity method would work, and a number of searches using the technique had proved unsuccessful since the late 1980s. The discovery of 51 Peg, as Mayor and Queloz like to call the exoplanet, was the breakthrough everyone was waiting for.

But no one was prepared for the planet they found.

“When we discovered 51 Peg, it was quite an unusual object,” says Mayor, now a professor emeritus at the university. “It was absolutely not expected from theory.”

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The Great Beyond of the Solar System . Our star and its planets are just a tiny fraction of the Milky Way. The closest star is located 4 light years away from us . This means that it would take 4 years to reach it at the speed of light.

A small, recently discovered asteroid - or perhaps a comet - appears to have originated from outside the solar system , coming from " We have long suspected that these objects should exist, because during the process of planet formation a lot of material should be ejected from planetary systems .

51 Pegasi b was about half the mass of Jupiter and orbited extremely close to its star. One trip all the way around took just four days. Astrophysicists didn’t think a planet that size could orbit so closely to a star. The innermost planet in our solar system, Mercury, is thousands of times less massive than Jupiter and takes 88 days to orbit the sun. When Mayor and Queloz announced their find at a scientific conference in Italy, some members of the field were skeptical, but a different team soon confirmed the discovery.

“The shock was so profound that 51 Peg completely changed our perspective of how we could look for planets,” says Queloz, now a physics professor at both Geneva and the University of Cambridge.

The discovery of 51 Pegasi b meant that astrophysicists could look much closer to a star to search for exoplanets. This led them to more seriously consider another technique for detecting planets, known as the transmit method. Like the radial-velocity method, the transit method relies on a star’s light. Astronomers train their telescopes on a star and watch for any dimming in its brightness, which would occur when a planet passes in front of it and blocks out the light. The closer the planet is to its parent star, the easier it is for telescopes to spot it.

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Beyond the core is a mantle that measures 500 – 700 km (310 – 435 mi) in thickness and is composed primarily of silicate material. And here’s another take on the smallest planet in the Solar System We have recorded a whole series of podcasts about the Solar System at Astronomy Cast. Sources

The six most distant known objects in the solar system with orbits exclusively beyond Neptune (magenta) all mysteriously line up in a single direction. From a number of studies that took place over the next few years, constraints were gradually placed on the basic parameters of this planet .

The first detection of an exoplanet using this method was announced in 2003 by astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. OGLE-TR-56b, located around 5,000 light-years away, is about the size of Jupiter and orbits 14 times closer to its star than Mercury does to the sun.

In 2009, the Kepler mission took the transit method to space. Kepler, a NASA spacecraft, launched into an orbit around the sun equipped with instruments to detect dips in the brightness of thousands of stars in its field of view. The mission has discovered thousands of confirmed and potential exoplanets since. NASA now announces the verification of new exoplanets so often—about every few months or so—that these discoveries are no longer headline-making news.

Today, the planets in our solar system seem like the weird ones. Kepler has found rocky planets 10 times the mass of Earth, gas giants the size of Jupiter with scorching temperatures, and even rogue planets floating around the galaxy without a star to call home. At least 30 exoplanets are about the size of Earth and orbit in the habitable zone of their star systems, that cosmic sweet spot where water exists as a liquid on the surface.

“I still think that today, without 51 Peg, Kepler would never have flown,” Queloz said. And if Kepler hadn’t flown, TESS probably wouldn’t have, either. Like Kepler, TESS will search for exoplanets using the transit method.

Cracks on Mars Reveal a System of Ancient Lakes

  Cracks on Mars Reveal a System of Ancient Lakes These curious cracks suggest that the lake levels changed often over time.The study, published online in Geology, proved that cracks on Mars' surface previously photographed by Curiosity are indeed desiccation mudcracks which could have only been formed when wet sediment was exposed to the air. This conclusion was based on an analysis of a single area of rock known as “Old Soaker.

"So far, we haven't found it anywhere else," said Alex Wolszczan of Pennsylvania State University, who co-discovered the first planets beyond our solar system . but if one adopts the point of view of an external observer, it is the ' planet ' ( taken as a whole) that has done these remarkable things," he told

The Apogee, or the opposite end of Nibiru’s orbit way out in stellar space, occurs far beyond the Space probes in the 1970's took the first colour pictures of our solar system which confirmed the We are envisioning a planetary system that encountered our Planet Earth about 3600 years ago

TESS’s timing couldn’t be better. Kepler is expected to run out of fuel and will cease operations sometime in the coming months. Engineers didn’t give Kepler a gas gauge, so they just have to watch for warning signs of low fuel and wait.

TESS will launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Once in space, the spacecraft will fire its engines several times to position itself for an encounter with the moon’s gravity, which will push it into its final orbit.

From its vantage point in high-Earth orbit, above where satellites normally operate, TESS will have an unobstructed view of the sky. The telescope will spend two years staring into the cosmos, turning back only to beam home data, covering more area than Kepler did. Kepler could stare only at specific patches of sky at a time, but TESS will be able to see about 90 percent of it.

TESS will focus on exoplanets around the brightest, closest stars in the galaxy, the kind of target perfect for follow-up observations by other space observatories and ground-based telescopes. Astronomers predict TESS will discover more than 1,600 new exoplanets, including about 70 Earth-sized exoplanets.

Where Kepler and TESS leave off, powerful telescopes currently under construction pick up. In the next decade, observatories like the Extremely Large Telescope in Chile will take the study of exoplanets a step further. They will examine the atmospheres of other planets, looking for the molecules that we know can, under the right conditions, create a world suitable for life.

They may even tell us something about 51 Pegasi b. Last year, astrophysicists using an instrument on the Very Large Telescope in Chile said they detected traces of water in the atmosphere of the exoplanet. The object that kicked off the parade of planets more than two decades ago may hold more surprises for us still.

This Could Be Darkest Planet Ever Discovered .
It absorbs some 99 percent of light hitting its surface.Scientists from Keele University in Newcastle, UK, explored the gas giant's incredible light-absorbing prowess in a research paper uploaded to the academic preprint server, arXiv.

Source: http://ca.pressfrom.com/news/technology/-71008-the-planet-that-took-us-beyond-the-solar-system/

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