Latest Space Interferometry Mission Stories

2010-06-24 06:45:00

Many scientists speculate that our galaxy could be full of places like Pandora from the movie "Avatar" -- Earth-like worlds in solar systems besides our own. That doesn't mean such worlds have been easy to find, however. Of the 400-plus planets so far discovered, none could support life as we know it on Earth. "The problem with finding Earth-like planets," said Stefan Martin, an engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., "is that their host stars can emit 10 million times...

2010-04-14 12:38:35

Astronomers have snapped a picture of three planets orbiting a star beyond our own using a modest-sized telescope on the ground. The surprising feat was accomplished by a team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., using a small portion of the Palomar Observatory's Hale Telescope, north of San Diego. The planets had been imaged previously by two of the world's biggest ground-based telescopes -- one of the two 10-meter (33-foot) telescopes of W.M. Keck Observatory and the...

2007-07-19 11:21:43

"I just do it for the pictures," laughs Dr. David Imel as he points to the myriad posters of stars and galaxies hanging from the walls in his office at Caltech. But the picture Imel wants to see most doesn't exist yet "“ a pale blue dot orbiting a distant star. Another Earth. As the manager of the Michelson Science Center at Caltech, Imel coordinates a team of scientists and engineers whose goal is to find the elusive Earthlike planet. He and his team schedule and organize telescope...

2007-05-10 10:15:00

Science fiction may soon become science fact. Astronomers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have recently concluded that the upcoming planet-finding mission, SIM PlanetQuest, would be able to detect an Earth-like planet around the star 40 Eridani, a planet familiar to "Star Trek" fans as "Vulcan." 40 Eridani, a triple-star system 16 light-years from Earth, includes a red-orange K dwarf star slightly smaller and cooler than our sun. Vulcan is thought to orbit that dwarf star, called 40...

2006-10-19 08:04:11

More than a decade after the first planets beyond our solar system were found, astronomers have discovered about 200 of these "extrasolar planets," as they're called. Using a common-sense definition of potentially habitable planets, coupled with extensive computer simulations, scientists have calculated how many potentially habitable planets might be detected around other stars by the SIM PlanetQuest mission. ("SIM" stands for Space Interferometry Mission.) The mission, scheduled for a...

2006-10-12 09:35:47

A Conversation with Navigator Chief Scientist Wesley Traub Where are the other Earths? Answering that question is just the first step in NASA's long-range quest to look for life around stars beyond our solar system, according to Dr. Wesley Traub. And to answer it, he says, we have to go into space. Traub was recently named chief scientist for the Navigator Program, a series of interrelated missions that will discover and characterize nearby planetary systems. The program will kick into high...

2006-05-10 17:30:00

Though he couldn't be observed directly, the Invisible Man knew his presence could be betrayed by his effect on visible things. Employing a similar principle, a team led by Andrew Gould of Ohio State University will hunt for hard-to-see celestial objects, like black holes and dark matter, by observing how they affect light coming from stars behind them. This "gravitational lens" effect, predicted by Albert Einstein, has been observed repeatedly from the ground. But NASA's SIM PlanetQuest...

2006-02-17 06:55:00

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is." -- Douglas Adams, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" NASA -- It is the job of astronomers to put numbers on the stupefying vastness of space and the objects it holds. That's how they get the universe to spill its secrets. The University of Virginia's Steve Majewski and his team plan to use NASA's SIM PlanetQuest space telescope to make ultra-precise measurements that will reveal more about...

2005-09-29 18:46:39

JPL -- Are we alone in the universe? Are there planets like Earth around other "suns" that might harbor life?  Thanks to a recent technology breakthrough on a key NASA planet-finding project, the dream of answering those questions is no longer light-years away. On a crystal clear, star-filled night at Hawaii's Keck Observatory in Mauna Kea, NASA engineers successfully suppressed the blinding light of three stars, including the well-known Vega, by 100 times.  This breakthrough...

2005-08-22 14:15:00

NASA -- A JPL scientist and his team are preparing to bring to the study of extrasolar planets what George Lucas brought to "Star Wars": the prequel. Most extrasolar planets discovered so far are "hot Jupiters," gas giants orbiting close to their parent stars. But according to current theory, such planets should form much farther from their stars, where temperatures are cold enough for water and other volatiles to freeze. Finding these planets close to their stars is like finding snowmen...

Word of the Day
  • A murmuring sound; a rushing or whistling sound, like that of the wind; a deep sigh.
  • A gentle breeze; a waft; a breath.
  • Any rumor that engages general attention.
  • A cant or whining mode of speaking, especially in preaching or praying; the chant or recitative characteristic of the old Presbyterians in Scotland.
  • To make a rushing, whistling, or sighing sound; emit a hollow murmur; murmur or sigh like the wind.
  • To breathe in or as in sleep.
  • To utter in a whining or monotonous tone.
According to the OED, from the 16th century, this word is 'almost exclusively Scots and northern dialect until adopted in general literary use in the 19th.'