Mystery as NASA calls Wednesday press conference to announce ‘major’ exoplanet discovery
- Event will ‘present new findings on planets that orbit stars other than our sun’
- Raises hopes that NASA could reveal exoplanets capable of holding life
Nasa is to host a major press conference on Wednesday to reveal a ‘discovery beyond our solar system’.
The space agency says the secretive event, will ‘present new findings on planets that orbit stars other than our sun, known as exoplanets’.
It raises hopes that NASA could reveal details of exoplanets capable of holding life.
The event will take place on 22 February at 1pm New York time, and will be streamed live on NASA’S television station and on its website.
Although NASA has given no clue of the announcement, it has confirmed scientists from the Spitzer telescope will be present.
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope observes transiting exoplanets in infrared wavelengths, and has helped to chart and characterize many, including puzzling out details of planetary atmospheres.
Spitzer often works in conjunction with ground-based telescopes, including OGLE’s Warsaw Telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.
In 2015, a collaboration between Spitzer and Italy’s 3.6 meter Galileo National Telescope in the Canary Islands revealed the closest known rocky planet: HD 219134b, only 21 light-years away from Earth.
Disappointingly, however, the planet orbits its star too closely to make it suitable for life.
Researchers recently gave an incredible glimpse of a nearby system with a mesmerising new animation revealing four alien worlds orbiting a star 129 light years away.
The planets, each more massive than Jupiter, are circling a bright young star that lies in the constellation Pegasus.
It comes as the result of seven years of observations at the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, providing a captivating glimpse at four planets whose orbital periods are in nearly precise ratio with each other.
The animation was created by Jason Wang, an astronomy graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley based on eight observations of the four planets, dating back to 2009.
Their star, HR 8799, is less than 60 million years old and is nearly five times brighter than the sun, according to Many Worlds.
These objects have vastly different orbital periods, from 40 years to more than 400.
But, researchers believe they are in a one-two-four-eight resonance with each other.
This means their individual orbital periods are in nearly precise ratio with the others.
Given how long it takes each planet to complete its orbit, only a snippet of this journey is shown in the animation.
Astronomers discovered three of the HR 8799 planets in 2008, using direct imaging for the first time.
The team included Christian Marois of the National Research Council of Canada’s Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, who analyzed the data, according to Many Worlds.
At the time scientists first imaged the HR 8799 planets, a separate team also announced the direct imaging of a planet orbiting the star Fomalhaut.
After additional observations in 2009-2010, researchers discovered the fourth planet around HR 8799.
Wang used a motion interpolation algorithm to plot their orbits, and the animation shows these four stars as they make their way around HR 8799.
The researcher previously created a similar animation of a planet orbiting the star Beta Pictoris.
According to Wang, the new technique ‘allows us to use artifacts of the data reduction process which we used to consider nuisances to better constrain the position of the planet.’
In order to make them visible, the researchers have had to block out the star’s light, giving rise to the black circle at the center.
Each star is larger than Jupiter, and thus lie far away from each other.
As researchers continue to observe this system, they will watch to see if it is stable, or if some of the planets will be ejected.
Wang and Maoris are part of a team operating the Gemini Planet Imager, an addition to the Gemini South telescope in Chile.
Source Daily Mail