A Change in the Air
NASA – An international team of astronomers using data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope made an unparalleled observation, detecting significant changes in the atmosphere of a planet located beyond our solar system.
Exoplanet HD 189733b lies so near its star that it completes an orbit every 2.2 days. In late 2011, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope found that the planet’s upper atmosphere was streaming away at speeds exceeding 300,000 mph. Just before the Hubble observation, NASA’s Swift detected the star blasting out a strong X-ray flare, one powerful enough to blow away part of the planet’s atmosphere.
The exoplanet is a gas giant similar to Jupiter, but about 14 percent larger and more massive. The planet circles its star at a distance of only 3 million miles, or about 30 times closer than Earth’s distance from the sun. Its star, named HD 189733A, is about 80 percent the size and mass of our sun.
This artist’s rendering illustrates the evaporation of HD 189733b’s atmosphere in response to a powerful eruption from its host star.
Compact Planetary System
NASA – This artist’s concept depicts a planetary system so compact that it’s more like Jupiter and its moons than a star and its planets. Astronomers using data from NASA’s Kepler mission and ground-based telescopes recently confirmed that the system, called KOI-961, hosts the three smallest exoplanets currently known to orbit a star other than our sun. An exoplanet is a planet that resides outside of our solar system.
The star, which is located about 130 light-years away in the Cygnus constellation, is a red dwarf that is one-sixth the size of the sun, or just 70 percent bigger than Jupiter. The star is also cooler than our sun, and gives off more red light than yellow.
The smallest of the three planets, called KOI-961.03, is actually located the farthest from the star, and is pictured in the foreground. This planet is about the size of Mars, with a radius of 0.57 times that of Earth. The next planet to the upper right is KOI-961.01, which is 0.78 times the radius of Earth. The planet closest to the star is KOI-961.02, with a radius 0.73 times the Earth’s.
All three planets whip around the star in less than two days, with the closest planet taking less than half a day. Their close proximity to the star also means they are scorching hot, with temperatures ranging from 350 to 836 degrees Fahrenheit (176 to 447 degrees Celsius). The star’s habitable zone, or the region where liquid water could exist, is located far beyond the planets.
The ground-based observations contributing to these discoveries were made with the Palomar Observatory, near San Diego, Calif., and the W.M. Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Jupiter From the Ground
NASA – This image of Jupiter and its moons Io and Ganymede was acquired by amateur astronomer Damian Peach on Sept. 12, 2010, when Jupiter was close to opposition. South is up and the “Great Red Spot” is visible in the image.
Ground-based astronomy will play a vital role in the success of NASA’s Juno mission. Because Jupiter has such a dynamic atmosphere, images from amateur astronomers will assist the JunoCam instrument team predict what features will be visible when the camera’s images are taken.
With its suite of science instruments, the Juno spacecraft will investigate the existence of a solid planetary core, map the planet’s intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere and observe the planet’s auroras. Image Credit: NASA/Damian Peach
Posted in Science, SPACE WATCH, Technology
Tagged Atmosphere of Jupiter, Ganymede, Io, Juno, JunoCam, Jupiter, NASA, Planetary core, Space
NASA – Data from a NASA planetary mission have provided scientists evidence of what appears to be a body of liquid water, equal in volume to the North American Great Lakes, beneath the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon, Europa.
NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, launched by the space shuttle Atlantis in 1989 to Jupiter, produced numerous discoveries and provided scientists decades of data to analyze. Galileo studied Jupiter, which is the most massive planet in the solar system, and some of its many moons.
One of the most significant discoveries was the inference of a global salt water ocean below the surface of Europa. This ocean is deep enough to cover the whole surface of Europa and contains more liquid water than all of Earth’s oceans combined. more> http://twurl.nl/fzsbny
Posted in Nature, Science, SPACE WATCH, Technology
Tagged Earth, Europa, Galileo, Jupiter, NASA, Physics, Solar System, Space, Water
Jupiter and its volcanic moon Io
NASA – This montage of New Horizons images shows Jupiter and its volcanic moon Io, and were taken during the spacecraft’s Jupiter flyby in early 2007. The image of Jupiter is an infrared color composite taken by the spacecraft’s near-infrared imaging spectrometer, the Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array. The infrared wavelengths used highlight variations in the altitude of the Jovian cloud tops, with blue denoting high-altitude clouds and hazes, and red indicating deeper clouds. The prominent bluish-white oval is the Great Red Spot. The observation was made at a solar phase angle of 75 degrees but has been projected onto a crescent to remove distortion caused by Jupiter’s rotation during the scan. The image of Io is an approximately true-color composite taken by the panchromatic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager with color information provided by the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera. The image shows a major eruption in progress on Io’s night side, at the northern volcano Tvashtar. Incandescent lava glows red beneath a volcanic plume, whose uppermost portions are illuminated by sunlight. The plume appears blue due to scattering of light by small particles within it.
This montage originally appeared on the cover of the Oct. 12, 2007, issue of Science magazine. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Goddard Space Flight Center
Posted in Science, SPACE WATCH, Technology
Tagged Atmosphere of Jupiter, Earth, Galilean moons, Io, Jupiter, NASA, New Horizons, Solar System, Space