2012-2013 NExScI News and Press Releases

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December 2013: Cloudy Weather on an Alien World

Sagan Fellow Jean-Michel Desert is a co-author on a recent Nature paper that for the first time definitively characterizes the atmosphere of a super-Earth class planet orbiting another star. Click for the paper by lead author Laura Kreidberg and the press release.

November 2013: Second Kepler Science Conference, Nov. 4-8

Archived videos of talks, including the public lecture by Frank Drake are available as links on the agenda page

October 2013: Comet ISON Observing Run

Join NASA Keck PI Carey Lisse and a team of astronomers on a Comet ISON observing run at the W. M. Keck Observatory. View the Oct. 26 rebroadcast.

September 2013: Clouds on a Distant World

Nikole Lewis, a 2012 Sagan Fellow at MIT, is a co-author on a paper discussing the first mapping of the distribution of clouds on an exoplanet. Read the paper and also the JPL and MIT press releases describing the work.

August 2013: Highest Resolution Images Ever of the Night Sky

Sagan Fellows Katie Morzinski and Jared Males are part of a team that has developed a new camera that allows sharper images to be taken than ever before. The team, led by Laird Close at the University of Arizona, has deployed the latest version of these cameras in Chile at the Magellan 6.5m telescope. Read the press release here.

July 2013: Young Stars with a Hula Hoop

NExScI scientist Dr Peter Plavchan is the lead author of a paper using Spitzer Space Telescope and 2MASS data to discover a young triple star system where two of the stars "blink" every 93 days as they are periodically eclipsed by a circumstellar disk of dust and gas. Read the press release here and the A&A paper.

July 2013: X-Ray Transit Shows Extended Planet Atmosphere

Katja Poppenhaeger, a 2013 Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard-SAO, is the lead author on a paper discussing the first X-ray observations of an exoplanet passing in front of its parent star. Click here for the paper.

July 2013: Disks Don't Need Planets to Make Patterns

Wladimir Lyra, a Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow at JPL, is a co-author on a recent paper in Nature that sounds a cautionary note in interpreting rings and spiral arms as signposts for new planets. Thanks to interactions between gas and dust, a debris disk may, under the right conditions, produce narrow rings on its own -- no planets needed. Click here for the Nature paper.

May 2013: Why Hot Jupiters Aren't Eaten by Their Stars (Very Often)

NExScI scientist Peter Plavchan is the lead author on a recent paper that studies how hot Jupiters arrive and stay in their present-day orbits. The research uses data from the Kepler mission and confirmed exoplanets available at the NASA Exoplanet Archive. Click for the press release and for the ApJ paper.

May 2013: Fingerprinting Exoplanet Atmospheres

NExScI director Chas Beichman is a co-author on a new ApJ paper that examines the first simultaneous spectroscopic observations of multiple planets in a planetary system other than our own. Click for the press release and for the ApJ paper.

May 2013: Hot Jupiters in a Petri Dish

Nikole Lewis, a Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow at MIT, is the lead author on a recent paper that discusses the results of the longest Spitzer observation yet of a hot Jupiter. "These planets are much hotter and more dynamic than our own Jupiter. Strong winds are churning material up from below, and the chemistry is always changing," said Lewis. Click for the press release and for the ApJ paper

April 2013: Exoplanet Characterization by Proxy

Sarah Ballard, a Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Washington, is inferring the properties of small, relatively cool stars too distant for measurement, by comparing them to closer stars that now can be directly observed. Her results are discussed in a press release and will be published in ApJ

March 2013: NASA Keck Time Discovers Atmospheric Molecules around HR8799c

NASA Keck PI, Dr. Travis Barman (Lowell Observatory) is part of a team that has made the most detailed examination to date of a Jupiter-sized exoplanet atmosphere. Using NASA time on the Keck II telescope at the W. M. Keck Observatory, they have detected a cloudy atmosphere containing water vapor and carbon monoxide around HR8799c. Click here for the press release and here for the Science Express article.

January 2013: Big Planets Shepherd Little Planets

NExScI astronomer Dr. David Ciardi has authored a paper that indicates that 70% of planets in Kepler systems are sequentially organized such that the inner planets are smaller than the outer planets, and this is likely a result of evolutionary mechanisms during the formation of the planetary systems.

December 2012: Exoplanet Archive v2.0 Released

The latest version of the Exoplanet Archive includes plotting in the interactive tables, a viewable transit tool, and a detailed overview page for each Kepler candidate. The Exoplanet Archive is funded by NASA to serve the user community working with exoplanet data. The archive includes exoplanet and stellar host properties and Kepler candidate properties in interactive tables and time series data from space- and ground-based projects. More info: Exoplanet Archive.

November 2012: Asteroid Belts Could be Friendly to Life

Sagan Fellow Rebecca Martin has co-authored a recent paper suggesting that the size and location of an asteroid belt may determine whether complex life will evolve on an Earth-like planet. Click here for the NASA press release.

September 2012: Habitable Eccentric Exoplanets?

NExScI scientists Dr. Stephen Kane and Dr. Dawn Gelino have co-authored a paper paper in the Astrobiology journal revealing that life might actually be able to survive on some of the many exoplanetary oddballs that exist. Click here for the NASA press release.

June 2012: LBTI Exozodi Key Science Team Selected!

NExScI is pleased to announce six investigators who will join the LBTI key science team. The LBTI science team is responsible for all aspects leading to the optimum execution of the NASA exo-zodi key science program.

February 2012: WFIR2012 Presentations Available

IPAC hosted a pair of meetings Feb. 13-17, 2012. A conference on Science with a Wide-field Infrared Telescope in Space followed by The 16th International Conference on Gravitational Microlensing. Conference presentations can be found on the meeting website.

January 2012: Billions of Planets

NExScI scientist Dr. Stephen Kane was a co-author on a Nature paper announcing the discovery that the Milky Way galaxy contains at least 100 billion planets from statistical studies of microlensing events. Click here for the NASA press release.