2014-2015 NExScI News and Press Releases

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November 2015: MagAO First Light Observations of Beta pic

Sagan Fellow Katie Morzinski at the University of Arizona is the lead author on a recent paper that presents the 0.9-5 micron spectral energy distribution (SED) of young giant exoplanet beta Pic b. Sagan Fellow Jared Males is also an author on the paper.

Read more about it on the University of Arizona MagAO blog and in the ApJ paper

November 2015: First Photo of a Planet in the Making

University of Arizona astronomers have obtained the first images of exoplanets still in formation, using the Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer and the Magellan Adaptive Optics instrument. These results appear in a Nature article led by UA graduate student Stephanie Sallum, and including as co-authors Sagan Fellows Jared Males and Katie Morzinski. Read the full story.

June 2015: Breakthrough for Planet Hunters

A new optical component developed by astronomers at the UA, including NASA Sagan Fellow Jared Males, and Leiden University pushes the capability of detecting alien planets closer to their host stars than ever before. Read the full story here.

June 2015: NExScI opens the LBTI archive

The Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer (LBTI) is a NASA-funded instrument built and operated by the University of Arizona to study extrasolar planetary systems. The LBTI archive at NExScI contains all NASA data from the LBTI. Current holdings correspond to the Nulling mode commissioning period (Dec 2013 - May 2015), including science verification data for the NASA Exozodi survey (HOSTS, Hunt for Observables Signatures of Terrestrial Systems) here.

April 2015: NASA's NExSS Coalition to Lead Search for Life on Distant Worlds

NASA is bringing together experts spanning a variety of scientific fields for an unprecedented initiative dedicated to the search for life on planets outside our solar system. The NExSS leadership team includes Dawn Gelino of NExScI. Read the full story here.

April 2015: Planets Deep within our Galaxy

Sagan Fellow Jennifer Yee is the lead author on a recent ApJ paper that used Spitzer data along with ground-based data to find a remote gas planet ~13,000 light-years away, making it one of the most distant planets known. Read the full story here.

December 2014: Stardust Not Likely to Block Planet Portraits

A study by Bertrand Mennesson (JPL) and Rafael Millan-Gabet (NExScI) used Keck Interferometer data to tightly constrain the amount of exozodi dust likely to be encountered by future missions to image exo-Earths. The study also found a link between warm dust in the habitable zones of nearby Sun-like stars and more distant colder dust reservoirs analogous to the Kuiper belt. This link could be used to select stars around which to search for exo-Earths. Read more in the full stories from JPL and WMKO.

July 2014: Farthest Lensing Galaxy Yields Clues to Early Universe

While analyzing spectrographic data from the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, NASA Keck PI Kim Vy-Tran spotted a strong detection of hot hydrogen gas that appeared to arise from a massive, bright elliptical galaxy. This fingerprint of hydrogen led to the discovery of a record-breaking cosmic magnifying glass. Read the full story.

July 2014: Precise Measurement of an Alien World's Size

Sagan Fellow Sarah Ballard is the lead author on a ApJ paper describing the most precise measurement ever of the radius of a planet outside our solar system. The findings confirm Kepler-93b as a "super-Earth", about one-and-a-half times the size of our planet. Although super-Earths are common in the galaxy, none exist in our solar system. Exoplanets like Kepler-93b are therefore our only laboratories to study this major class of planet.

April 2014: First Earth-Size Planet in the 'Habitable Zone' of Another Star

The NASA Exoplanet Archive has 10 new planets, including Kepler-186 f, an Earth-radius planet located within the habitable zone of the host star, as featured in this press release and the published paper.

March 2014: A Small Step Toward Discovering Habitable Earths

Sagan Fellow Jared Males is lead author on a recent ApJ paper describing images of an exoplanet obtained with an Earth-based telescope using essentially the same type of imaging sensor found in digital cameras. The technology still has a long way to go, however the accomplishment takes astronomers a small step closer to imaging earth-like planets around other stars. Sagan Fellow Katie Morzinski is a co-author on the paper.

February 2014: Kepler Mission Announces a Planet Bonanza!

The NASA Exoplanet Archive has added the recently announced 715 new Kepler planets. These are described in papers by Rowe, et al and also in a NASA Ames press release With this announcement, Kepler now accounts for 57% of all confirmed planets. Click here to explore the NASA Exoplanet Archive.

January 2014: Brown Dwarf Discovery Provides Benchmark for Future Exoplanet Research

Using NASA Keck time, PI Justin Crepp and his team have imaged a brown dwarf that can serve as a benchmark for studying objects with masses that lie between stars and planets. Read the ApJ paper and the WMKO press release and also in a NASA Ames press release.