Deep Space

  • Neptune-Class Worlds Found
    While striving to find ever smaller, more rocky worlds, planet hunters have moved from discovering not just Jupiter-class planets outside our solar system. Now astronomers have found two new Neptune-class planets on their road to pinpointing a new Earth-like system.
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  • Finding Super-Earths
    Of the more than 120 extrasolar planets found so far, most are as large or larger than our own Jupiter. Finding rocky worlds like Earth is nearly at the limit of current technology, but the European Southern Observatory in Chile reports finding the smallest super-Earth
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  • Backyard Telescopes for New Planets
    Could a new world be discovered with a department store telescope having only a small 4-inch diameter lens? It was a little more than a decade ago that the world's most powerful telescopes could just begin to discover extrasolar planets, but with over 120 new
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  • Cassiopeia’s Cool Jets
    The Chandra X-ray telescope probes depths of exploded stars not otherwise accessible. When pointed towards the supernova Cassiopiea A, a relatively cool history highlights a lack of iron and a jet that may help explain its inner neutron star.
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  • Sweeping for Unseen Worlds
    The problem of finding a world one cannot see is detective work for some of the most powerful ground-based telescopes. One challenge is to observe dust disks for signs of planets by their expected swept trails.
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  • Celestial Geode
    In the latest Hubble images, a remarkable young star has yielded the visual equivalent of a celestial geode. Like the sparkling interior of a crystalline sphere, a strong stellar wind is inflating this super-bubble.
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  • Plurality of Worlds
    Did the same Greek philosophers who declared the first truce for Olympic competition have the foresight to imagine a universe not just where many countries could coexist, but also a universe occupied by many such habitable worlds?
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  • Hubble in Trouble
    The spectrometer or color detector on Hubble Space Telescope seems to have a malfunction, which jeopardizes about a third of science observations. One possible casualty, if engineers cannot recover the instrument, is detection of atmospheres around newly discovered planets outside our solar system.
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  • Cosmic Cowboy
    A brand of researcher can now breathe life into the aura of a patient nomad who searches the horizon for signs of a new world. McDonald Observatory astronomer Bill Cochran discusses how a West Texas telescope has begun chalking up discoveries of extrasolar planets.
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  • No Place Like Home
    With over one hundred extrasolar planets found, astrobiologists can begin to classify types of different worlds. The question naturally arises: What makes Earth special, if anything?
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  • Picking Hubble’s Course
    NASA announced today nine key concept studies targeting the origins of life including surveying a billion stars and taking a census of candidate extrasolar planets.
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  • Eavesdropping on Olympus
    As preparations near completion for the return of the Olympics Games to their ancestral home in Athens, the time is ripe to revisit whether the Olympics has been our diplomatic calling card in other places beyond the home planet.
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  • The Search for More Earths
    When astronomers first realized that the stars in the sky were like our Sun, only more distant, they wondered if those stars had planets too. And if they have planets, is there life? Intelligent life? There's an answer - yes or no - but we
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  • How Gas Giants Become Giants
    Computer simulations of alternative pathways for forming gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn show that Saturn may have a rocky core while Jupiter may offer no surface underneath its thick clouds. The differences highlight two ways to make a gas giant in our solar
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  • Failing as a Cool Star
    Brown dwarfs were discovered in the mid-nineties as hybrid stellar objects: too small to ignite as stars, but too big to be planets. To reconcile the classification, astronomers have looked at newborn dwarfs less than a million years old to see if they might
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