Deep Space

  • Mapping the Pale Blue Dot
    NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft completed its primary mission in 2005 when it released a projectile that collided with the comet Tempel 1. Now, the instruments onboard Deep Impact are helping astronomers develop new techniques to search for Earth-like worlds around distant stars.
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    Many of the organic molecules essential for life have been identified in space. Set to launch this month, the Herschel Space Observatory could help astronomers better characterize these molecules and determine whether or not these materials from space played a role in the origin of
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  • The Velocity of Planets
    Researchers have developed a new technique to detect small, extrasolar planets that are more Earth-like than the majority of planets discovered thus far. They call it the "astro-comb", and it could help astrobiologists in the search for distant, habitable worlds.
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  • The Crowded Universe
    After two decades of planet searching, Alan Boss has written a book about how far we have come and how close we are to answering the question of whether we are alone in the universe.
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    NASA's Spizter Space Telescope is about to finish its primary missions after more than five and a half years. Although its primary mission is over, Spitzer will continue to return valuable data for astrobiologists here on Earth.
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  • Planets Pulled Out by the Tide
    Astronomers have discovered why some distant solar systems don't contain as many planets as expected. Some extrasolar planets may have been destroyed after falling into their parent stars. The research is helping astrobiologists understand how planetary systems form and evolve.
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  • Waving a Hand Across the Distance
    Scientists have developed an instrument for detecting polarized light after it reflects off of chiral molecules. Living organisms contain many chiral molecules, and the new technology could be useful in searching for life beyond our planet.
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  • Exoplanets Exposed to the Core
    Astronomers have determined that giant exoplanets orbiting close to their stars could lose so much of their mass that only their cores remain. The smallest exoplanet discovered so far, which is less than twice the size of Earth, may be an example of this phenomenon.
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  • Double Discovery: Super-Earth and Ocean World
    Researchers have made two amazing discoveries regarding the Gliese 581 system. The star is orbited by the lightest exoplanet ever found, less than twice the mass of the Earth. One of the other planets in this system, a super-Earth, orbits within the star´s
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    NASA's Kepler spacecraft has captured its first images of the star-rich patch of sky where it will soon begin searching for Earth-like planets. One image from Kepler's entire field of view is estimated to contain 14 million stars, more than 100,000 of which are considered
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  • Generating Giant Galaxies
    A new finding indicates that not all massive, luminous galaxies formed shortly after the Big Bang. The study could yield new information about the origin and evolution of galaxies.
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    At the most recent NASA Astrobiology Science Conference, a panel of scientists discussed different types of planets where we might find alien life. In the final segment of this series, the panelists express their hopes about discovering evidence for aliens in our galaxy.
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    Life is thought to have arisen from a hot soup of chemical ingredients. Could such a life-giving broth exist on planets around distant stars as well? A new study using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope indicates that a different mixture of life-forming chemicals may exist on
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    Not astrobiologists' first choice, red dwarf stars have now gained acceptance as potential hosts for habitable planets. They may not be great to live by in the first couple billion years, but they eventually settle down into relatively pleasant stars.
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  • Hubble Finds Hidden Exoplanet
    Using a new image-processing technique, astronomers have discovered a new extrasolar planet by looking back through archived data from the Hubble Space Telescope. The new technique could help identify additional planets hidden in the more than 10 years of Hubble data currently available.
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