In the Exoplanet Transits investigation, we are collecting image data to generate a light curves for various exoplanets:
- images provided by the Zen Observatory, from their TrES-3 page.
- images of GJ 436b from
Bareket Observatory (Israel) on 2010 Feb 20 (85 Mb zipped). Included in
the zip file is a finding chart and an image indicating where aq
suitable reference star is, as well as the "check" star GJ 436).
- The MicroObservatory project
has a number of exoplanet observations. Click on their "Get Images"
link, then click on "Image Archive" and look for "Other Worlds."
2017-02-22. NASA telescope reveals largest batch of Earth-size, habitable-zone planets around single star.
NASA RELEASE 17-015.
2016-08-07. Martians Might Be Real. That makes Mars exploration way more complicated.
By Kevin Carey, WIRED.
2016-07-20. NASA’s Hubble Telescope Makes First Atmospheric Study of Earth-Sized Exoplanets.
NASA RELEASE 16-076.
2016-05-16. Aging Stars Make New Habitable Zones.
By JoAnna Wendel, EoS-Earth & Space Science News (AGU).
2016-02-18. Berkeley Lab, UC Berkeley Scientists to Participate in New NASA Space Telescope Project.
By Glen Roberts Jr., Berkeley Lab News Center.
2015-01-06. So Many Earth-Like Planets, So Few Telescopes. By Dennis Overbye, The New York Times. Front page story.
2014-07-10. NASA Spacecraft Observes Further Evidence of Dry Ice Gullies on Mars. Excerpt: Repeated high-resolution observations made by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO; http://www.nasa.gov/mro ) indicate the gullies on Mars’ surface are primarily formed by the seasonal freezing of carbon dioxide, not liquid water. The first reports of formative gullies on Mars in 2000 generated excitement and headlines because they suggested the presence of liquid water on the Red Planet, .... Mars has water vapor and plenty of frozen water, but the presence of liquid water on the neighboring planet, a necessity for all known life, has not been confirmed. This latest report about gullies has been posted online by the journal Icarus. "As recently as five years ago, I thought the gullies on Mars indicated activity of liquid water," said lead author Colin Dundas of the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. "...we saw that the activity occurs in winter." Dundas and collaborators used the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE; http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu ) camera on MRO to examine gullies at 356 sites on Mars, beginning in 2006. ...Using dated before-and-after images, researchers determined the timing of this activity coincided with seasonal carbon dioxide frost and temperatures that would not have allowed for liquid water. ...The findings in this latest report suggest all of the fresh-appearing gullies seen on Mars can be attributed to processes currently underway, whereas earlier hypotheses suggested they formed thousands to millions of years ago when climate conditions were possibly conducive to liquid water on Mars.... http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/july/nasa-spacecraft-observes-further-evidence-of-dry-ice-gullies-on-mars/#.U_t1t0iprZF. NASA RELEASE 14-191.
2014-04-17. First Earth-Size Planet in 'Habitable Zone'. Excerpt: Using NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered the
first Earth-size planet orbiting a star in the "habitable zone" -- the
range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the
surface of an orbiting planet. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms
that planets the size of Earth exist in the habitable zone of stars
other than our sun. While planets have previously been found in the habitable zone, they are
all at least 40 percent larger in size than Earth and understanding
their makeup is challenging. Kepler-186f is more reminiscent of Earth. "The
discovery of Kepler-186f is a significant step toward finding worlds
like our planet Earth," said Paul Hertz, NASA's Astrophysics Division
director at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "Future NASA
missions, like the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and the James
Webb Space Telescope, will discover the nearest rocky exoplanets and
determine their composition and atmospheric conditions, continuing
humankind's quest to find truly Earth-like worlds." http://kepler.nasa.gov/news/nasakeplernews/index.cfm?FuseAction=ShowNews&NewsID=330. By NASA Kepler mission. See NASA RELEASE 14-111. See also: http://kepler.nasa.gov/news/keplerinthenews/index.cfm?FuseAction=ShowNews&NewsID=332.
2013-04-18. Kepler's Smallest Habitable Zone Planets. NASA Kepler mission ...We're a step closer to knowing if our galaxy is home to a multitude of planets like Earth or if we are a rarity. The three habitable zone super-Earth-size planets are in two systems containing a total of seven newly discovered planets...Star Kepler-62 is not Sun-like: just 2/3 the size of the Sun, cooler, older, and only 1/5 as bright. Planet Kepler-62f, 40% larger than Earth, the smallest known habitable zone exoplanet, orbits every 267 days. Planet Kepler-62e, about 60% larger than Earth, orbits every 122 days in the the habitable zone's inner edge. http://kepler.nasa.gov/news/nasakeplernews/index.cfm?FuseAction=ShowNews&NewsID=243
2009 October 19. Many More Planets Found Outside Solar System. NY Times. Excerpt:
WASHINGTON(AP) -- European astronomers have found 32 new planets
outside our solar system, adding evidence to the theory that the
universe has many places where life could develop. Scientists using the
European Southern Observatory telescope didn't find any planets quite
the size of Earth or any that seemed habitable or even unusual. But
their announcement increased the number of planets discovered outside
the solar system to more than 400.
Six of the newly found planets are several times bigger than Earth,
increasing the population of so-called super-Earths by more than 30
percent. Most planets discovered so far are far bigger, Jupiter-sized
or even larger.
Two of the newly discovered planets were as small as five times the
size of Earth and one was up to five times larger than Jupiter.
...What astronomers said is especially exciting is that about 40
percent of sun-like stars have planets that are closer to being
Earth-sized than the size of Jupiter. Jupiter's mass is more than 300
times that of Earth's....
2009 Aug 31. A Doomed Planet, and Scientists Are Lucky to Have Spotted It. By Kenneth Chang. Excerpt:
Were astronomers just lucky when they discovered the planet WASP-18b?
...about 10 times the mass of Jupiter), close to the parent star (about
1.9 million miles away, or just one-fiftieth of the distance between
the Sun and Earth) and hot (3,800 degrees Fahrenheit). About
one-quarter of the nearly 400 planets discovered so far have been such
"hot Jupiters. But as an international team of astronomers looked more
closely, they became more surprised that they had seen WASP-18b at all.
The tidal forces between a star and a planet dissipate energy, and
WASP-18b is so close that it should fall into its host star in less
than a million years - an eye blink on the cosmic scale....
2009 July 20. Searching for Extraterrestrial Life. By Claudia Dreifus, The NY Times. Excerpt:
At his day job, Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution of Washington
studies how stars and planets are born. In recent years, he has
consulted with scientists for NASA’s Kepler space telescope on their
mission of finding planets outside our solar system that might be
hospitable to life. Mr. Boss, a 58-year-old astronomer and theoretical
astrophysicist, was in New York City recently to promote his new book,
“The Crowded Universe: the Search for Living Planets,” about the
scientific hunt for extraterrestrial life....
Q. ON MARCH 6, A DELTA 2 ROCKET CARRYING THE KEPLER SPACE TELESCOPE WAS
LAUNCHED FROM CAPE CANAVERAL. WHAT DID YOU THINK AS YOU WATCHED THE
A. Now we’re ready to do some science! The big payoff is coming!
Kepler’s mission is to detect planets outside our solar system that
roughly have the same size, conditions and distance from their stars as
Earth. We think the probability of finding extraterrestrial life would
be best on Earth-like planets. From previous observations, we know of
about 330 “extra-solar” planets. Kepler is likely to send us evidence
of hundreds of Earth-like planets revolving around hundreds of Sun-like
Q. YOU ARE A BIG BELIEVER IN “WE ARE NOT ALONE.” WHY?
A. From ground-based observations, we know that Earth-like planets are
going to be quite common. Estimates are that “earths” probably occur in
10 to 20 percent of the stars. My feeling is that if you have that many
earths and you have some prebiotic soup, comets that bring in the
organic chemicals that you need to have life, something is going to
2009 June 17. Exoplanet Has Oddball Orbit. By Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today. Excerpt:
In what might be a evidence of planetary billiards, astronomers have
found an exoplanet with an extremely odd orbit. The question is, was
this planet the cue ball or the object ball? While most planets orbit
around a star's mid-section, this one – called XO-3b — is tilted about
37 degrees from the star's equator. It's also a massive planet, about
10 times the size of Jupiter. Such a misalignment must have occurred as
a result of a disturbance, such as a collision with another object,
sometime after the planet's formation. But astronomers say they don't
yet know what caused the unusual orbit of XO-3b.
...The planet was discovered back in 2007 using the transit method by
measuring how the star is dimmed by the planet passing in through the
line-of-sight between Earth and the star.
...But to go one step further and measure the angle of its orbit, meant
that "we have to be sneaky about it," said MIT physicist Joshua Winn,
who led the team that measured the planet's tilted orbit. It turns out
that if a planet crosses the star's disk at an angle to the star's own
rotation, it causes a distinctive pattern of change in the overall
color of the star, as measured by a highly sensitive spectrograph,
because of the Doppler shifts caused by the star's rotation.
...Such "hot Jupiters" ...could not have formed in the places they are
seen now, according to accepted planet-formation theory. They must have
formed much further out from the star, then migrated inward to their
present positions. Astronomers have come up with different mechanisms
to account for the migration: the gravitational attraction of other
planets as they passed close by, or the attraction of the disk of dust
and gas from which the star and its planets formed.
Close encounters with other planets could greatly amplify a slight
initial tilt, but attraction from the disk of material could not.
Likely, a cataclysmic event occurred in this planet's past....
2009 April 21. Astronomers Find Planet Closer to Size of Earth. By Dennis Overbye, The NY Times. Excerpt:
European astronomers said Tuesday that they had discovered the smallest
planet yet found orbiting another star. The planet could be as little
as only 1.9 times as massive as the Earth and belongs to a dim red star
known as Gliese 581, which lies about 20 light-years from Earth in the
The star was already know to harbor at least three more massive
planets. The new planet, known as Gliese 581e, is probably rocky like
the Earth, but it lies in such a close orbit — only three million miles
from its star — that it is surely blasted with too much radiation and
heat to be livable.
...Astronomers said the discovery was more encouragement that the
galaxy was full of small-mass planets and that with more time and
improved instruments like the Kepler satellite, recently launched by
NASA, they would eventually find Earth-like planets in orbits suitable
for life around other stars.
“Finding Earth-like planets with lukewarm temperatures is the next
great goal,” Geoff Marcy, of the University of California, Berkeley, a
planet-hunting rival of Dr. Mayor’s, said in an e-mail message....
2009 March 2. In a Lonely Cosmos, a Hunt for Worlds Like Ours. By Dennis Overbye, The NY Times. Excerpt:
...Presently perched on a Delta 2 rocket at Cape Canaveral is a one-ton
spacecraft called Kepler. If all goes well, the rocket will lift off
about 10:50 Friday evening on a journey that will eventually propel
Kepler into orbit around the Sun. There the spacecraft’s mission will
be to discover Earth-like planets in Earth-like places — that is to
say, in the not-too-cold, not-too-hot, Goldilocks zones around stars
where liquid water can exist.
The job, in short, is to find places where life as we know it is possible.
“It’s not E.T., but it’s E.T.’s home,” said William Borucki, an
astronomer at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in
California, who is the lead scientist on the project. Kepler...will
look for tiny variations in starlight caused by planets passing in
front of their stars. Dr. Borucki and his colleagues say that Kepler
could find dozens of such planets — if they exist. The point is not to
find any particular planet — hold off on the covered-wagon spaceships —
but to find out just how rare planets like Earth are in the cosmos.
...Kepler’s strategy is, in effect, to search for the shadows of
planets. The core of the spacecraft, which carries a 55-inch-diameter
telescope, is a 95-million-pixel digital camera. For three and a half
years, the telescope will stare at the same patch of sky about 10
degrees, or 20 full moons, wide, in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra.
It will read out the brightnesses of 100,000 stars every half-hour,
looking for the telltale blips when a planet crosses in front of its
star, a phenomenon known as a transit.
To detect something as small as the Earth, the measurements need to be
done with a precision available only in space, away from the
atmospheric turbulence that makes stars twinkle, and far from Earth so
that our home world does not intrude on the view of shadow worlds in
that patch of sky. It will take three or more years — until the end of
Barack Obama’s current term in office — before astronomers know whether
Kepler has found any distant Earths....
2008 November / December. The stars her destination. BY ROBERTA KWOK, California Alumni Magazine. A business major's epiphany leads her to become a NASA scientist. Excerpt:
Natalie Batalha's worst enemy is the clock. Installed around the corner
from her office at NASA Ames Research Center, a looming LED display is
counting the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the launch of the
Kepler Mission: NASA's first attempt to find habitable Earth-like
planets in our galaxy.
"It's terrible," says Batalha '89, who has been working on the mission
for eight years. "It recently rolled over from 300 to 299, and I could
just feel my blood pressure rising."
When the clock runs down to zero next spring, Batalha will stand with
her family at Cape Canaveral in Florida to watch Kepler's take-off. The
spacecraft's telescope will peer at one slice of the sky for
three-and-a-half years, to look for signs of terrestrial planets using
a technique called the transit method. Batalha likens the process to a
fly passing in front of a car's headlight: Every time a planet passes
in front of the star it orbits, it dims the star's light a little, the
same way a fly would dim a headlight as it flew past. As part of
preparation for launch, Batalha has been choosing-very, very
carefully-the 170,000 stars that Kepler will observe from among the 13
million in its field of view.
Batalha may be feeling the pressure, but it doesn't show. Her voice has
the warm, calming quality of a public radio host, and when she
demonstrates the orbit of a planet around a star, her movements are
poised and exact. "Can you imagine that within your lifetime, you will
probably be able to look up in the sky and say, 'That star right there
has a habitable Earth-like planet orbiting it'?" asks Batalha, an
associate professor at San Jose State University. "That's astounding.
It's going to change the way people understand their place in the
Articles about planet finding and articles specifically about the Kepler mission may be found on the NASA Kepler mission website.
Articles from 2008–present
NASA's Kepler mission to find Earth size planets
in the habitable zones of stars.
Transit of HD209458 - supplement
for investigation Exoplanet Transits.
Part I - Plot a Transit
Light Curve, step C, John Kolena, HOU TRA, has
found that better reference stars are at:
x = 185, y = 181 or x = 311, y = 276
rather than the one at x = 564, y = 266 (as