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The NExSS project is overseen by representatives from NASA HQ, three co-leads, and a Steering Committee composed of the PIs of funded proposal teams selected to be the founding members of NExSS.

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Many Worlds

Many Worlds is a website for everyone interested in the burgeoning field of exoplanet detection and research. It presents columns, news stories and in-depth features, as well as the work of guest writers.

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What is NExSS? Why and how was it created? What are the scientific goals associated with NExSS? How can I join the NExSS community? Discover answers to these frequently asked questions and more.

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Around the Web

  • The first stars were born much later than previously thought, ESA's Planck reveals

  • Join us for an exploration of human spaceflight in science, industry and everyday life 14–15 September in London, UK

  • Space Science Image of the Week: A peculiar, age-defying star as seen by ESA’s Herschel

  • ESA's Soundcloud channel is now official: hear the latest sounds from mission control, the launch pad and deep space, including #SingingComet and the ISS warning alarm, a tone astronauts hope never to hear for real

  • Earlier the week we received our conjunction report that lists satellites that will pass close to SDO. Our inclined geosynchronous orbit means there aren't a lot of satellites near SDO, but every couple of months one will come within 20 km (12 mi) of our spacecraft. This week saw the return of Telstar 401 to our list (see the picture at left.) Telstar 401 is a large telecommunications satellite that failed January 11, 1997, and has since drifted around the geostationary belt of satellites. This is not a small satellite, the solar panels stretch about 60 ft across. It's good...

  • Today’s post is written by Alex Parker, a research scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, working on NASA’s New Horizons mission. Pluto and its moons are the most distant worlds ever visited by any of humanity’s robotic explorers, but for how much longer will that remain true? New Horizons is outbound through the Kuiper Belt, and two years ago today we discovered a smaller, more distant world that we could send it to. Likely an icy relic left behind from the era of planet formation, this world lies nearly a billion miles further from the sun than Pluto....

  • Several readers have contacted me recently about reports that a group of international astronomers have detected a strong signal coming from a distant star that could be a sign of a high-technology civilization. Here’s my reaction: it’s interesting, but it’s definitely not the sign of an alien civilization—at least not yet.

  • It is not easy to observe Jupiter’s moons as more than points of light with Juno, because Juno will never get very close to any of the moons, but as its orbit shifts there will be opportunities to collect data on some of the moons.

  • NASA’s managers have begun the process for a competition to select a new planetary mission to launch in the mid-2020s that will address one of the most important questions in planetary science.

  • What began as a tantalizing rumor has just become an astonishing fact. Today a group of thirty-one scientists announced the discovery of a terrestrial exoplanet orbiting Proxima Centauri. The discovery of this planet, Proxima Centauri b, is a huge breakthrough not just for astronomers but for all of us. Here’s why.

  • The Planetary Society, the world’s largest non-profit space interest organization, announced the appointment of two new members to its Board of Directors: Britney Schmidt, assistant professor, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, and actor Robert Picardo.

  • Get larger image formats The galaxies in the early universe were much smaller than our Milky Way and churned out stars at a rapid pace. They grew larger through mergers with other dwarf galaxies to eventually build the magnificent spiral and elliptical galaxies we see around us today. But astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have looked at two small galaxies that were left off the star party list. For many billions of years Pisces A and Pisces B lived in a vast intergalactic wilderness that was devoid of gas, which fuels star formation. They got left out in the cold.

  • Get larger image formats Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the TV series "Star Trek" has captured the public's imagination with the signature phrase, "To boldly go where no one has gone before." The Hubble Space Telescope simply orbits Earth and doesn't "boldly go" deep into space. But it looks deeper into the universe than ever before possible to explore the fabric of time and space and find the farthest objects ever seen. This is epitomized in this Hubble image that is part of its Frontier Fields program to probe the far universe. This view of a massive cluster of galaxies...

  • Get larger image formats The possibility of life on other worlds has fueled humankind's imagination for centuries. Over the past 20 years, the explosion of discoveries of planets orbiting other stars has sparked the search for worlds like Earth that could sustain life. Most of those candidates were found with other telescopes, including NASA's Kepler space observatory. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has also made some unique contributions to the planet hunt. Astronomers used Hubble, for example, to make the first measurements of the atmospheric composition of extrasolar planets.

  • Get larger image formats A team of astronomers led by the University of Arizona has directly imaged with the SPHERE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope the first planet ever found in a wide orbit inside a triple-star system. The orbit of such a planet had been expected to be unstable, probably resulting in the planet being quickly ejected from the system. But somehow this one survives. This observation of the HD 131399 system suggests that such systems may actually be more common than previously thought. The results will be published online in the journal Science on July 7, 2016. The...

  • Get larger image formats At the center of the Crab Nebula, located in the constellation Taurus, lies a celestial "beating heart" that is an example of extreme physics in space. The tiny object blasts out blistering pulses of radiation 30 times a second with unbelievable clock-like precision. Astronomers soon figured out that it was the crushed core of an exploded star, called a neutron star, which wildly spins like a blender on puree. The burned-out stellar core can do this without flying apart because it is 10 billion times stronger than steel. This incredible density means that the mass of 1.4...

  • Get larger image formats Astronomers are using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to study auroras stunning light shows in a planet's atmosphere on the poles of the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter. The auroras were photographed during a series of Hubble Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph far-ultraviolet-light observations taking place as NASA's Juno spacecraft approaches and enters into orbit around Jupiter. The aim of the program is to determine how Jupiter's auroras respond to changing conditions in the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emitted from the sun. Auroras are formed when charged particles in the space...

  • Get larger image formats As we celebrate the Fourth of July by watching dazzling fireworks shows, another kind of fireworks display is taking place in a small, nearby galaxy.

  • Get larger image formats Pancake-shaped clouds not only appear in the children's book "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," but also 3 billion miles away on the gaseous planet Neptune. When they appeared in July 2015, witnessed by amateur astronomers and the largest telescopes, scientists suspected that these clouds were bright companions to an unseen, dark vortex. The dark vortex is a high-pressure system where the flow of ambient air is perturbed and diverted upward over the vortex. This forms huge, lens-shaped clouds, that resemble clouds that sometimes form over mountains on Earth.

  • Get larger image formats In 1936, astronomers observed signs that the young star FU Orionis had begun gobbling material from its surrounding disk of gas and dust with a sudden voraciousness. During a three-month binge, as matter turned into energy, the star became 100 times brighter, heating the disk around it to temperatures of up to 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The brightening is the most extreme event of its kind that has been confirmed around a star the size of the sun, and may have implications for how stars and planets form. The intense baking of the star's surrounding disk likely changed...

  • For the first time, a spacecraft far from Earth has turned and watched a solar storm engulf our planet. The movie, released today during a NASA press conference, has galvanized solar physicists, who say it could lead to important advances in space weather forecasting.

  • Scientists from Boston University's Center for Space Physics (CSP) reported the presence of a comet-like tail in images of the planet Mercury taken by STEREO, in a presentation given September 22, 2010 at the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) meeting in Rome.

  • NASA's twin STEREO probes are entering a mysterious region of space to look for remains of an ancient planet which once orbited the Sun not far from Earth. If they find anything, it could solve a major puzzle--the origin of the Moon. "The name of the planet is Theia," says Mike Kaiser, STEREO project scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center. "It's a hypothetical world. We've never actually seen it, but some researchers believe it existed 4.5 billion years ago - and that it collided with Earth to form the Moon."

  • THEY are the places gravity forgot. Vast regions of space, millions of kilometres across, in which celestial forces conspire to cancel out gravity and so trap anything that falls into them. They sit in the Earth's orbit, one marching ahead of our planet, the other trailing along behind. Astronomers call them Lagrangian points, or L4 and L5 for short. The best way to think of them, though, is as celestial flypaper.

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This website is being run by Knowinnovation Inc. and is supported by the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI). LPI is operated by the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) under a cooperative agreement with NASA. The purpose of this site is to facilitate communication from and between scientists that are part of the Nexus for Exoplanet Systems Science (NExSS). Although NExSS is led by researchers whose funding comes from NASA, NExSS is a community endeavor. As such, any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NASA.