NASA’s new planet-hunting TESS observatory completed its first post-launch thruster firing Saturday, setting up for a big boost Wednesday that will send the spacecraft toward the moon for a flyby next month, the next maneuvers in a two-month process to reach the mission’s final science orbit in mid-June.
A group of researchers has observed the first ground-based transit observation of K2-3d — a potentially Earth-like extrasolar planet supposedly within the habitable zone around a bright M-dwarf host star 147 light-years away — using the multi-band imager MuSCAT on the Okayama Astrophysical Observatory’s 1.88-metre telescope.
A team of German researchers has succeeded in measuring the oblateness of a slowly rotating star with unprecedented precision using asteroseismology — the study of the oscillations of stars. The technique was applied to a hot and luminous star called Kepler 11145123 some 5,000 light-years away that is spherical to one part in 500,000.
Exoplanet KELT-4Ab, about one and a half times the size of Jupiter, orbits the main star of a three-star system every three days. The system’s other two stars orbit each other once every 30 years while simultaneously orbiting the main star — and the planet — once every 4,000 years. The triple star system lies about 685 light-years from Earth.
A team of researchers led by San Francisco State University astronomer Stephen Kane were able to detect a signal of reflected light from a planet known as HD 20782 b — a “flash” of starlight bouncing off the planet’s atmosphere as it made its closest orbital approach to its parent star on the most eccentric, comet-like orbit yet seen.
One method to discover planets beyond the solar system by far is transit photometry, which measures changes in a star’s brightness when a planet crosses in front of its star along our line of sight. NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has used this technique to become the most successful planet-hunting spacecraft to date, with more than a thousand established discoveries. Satellites carrying improved technology for all-sky surveys are now planned, missions that will tell us a great deal about alien planetary systems similar to our own.