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Here is a brief video obtained by Mark Elphick and IfA's J. D. Armstrong using the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope (LCOGT) Network telescope in Chile before this asteroid reached its closest approach to Earth on January 26, when it passed our planet at a distance of about three times that of the Moon.
Extrasolar planets are being discovered by the hundreds, but are any of these newfound worlds really like Earth? A planetary system recently discovered by the Kepler spacecraft will help resolve this question.
The new discovery paves the way for studies of the atmosphere of a warm planet nearly the size of Earth. The three new planets are particularly favorable for atmospheric studies because they orbit a nearby, bright star. Next, the team of astronomers that made the discovery hopes to observe the planets with the Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories to determine what elements are in the planets’ atmospheres. If Hubble finds that these warm, nearly Earth-size planets have thick, hydrogen-rich atmospheres, they will learn that there is not much chance for life.
A recent study by UHERO (the Economic Research Organization at UH) shows that in 2012 astronomy created an economic impact of about $168 million and almost 1,400 jobs in the state of Hawai‘i. The state taxes produced by astronomy totaled more than $8 million, and thus were significantly more than the State general funds that IfA receives.
This study is a snapshot of astronomy-related expenditures in calendar year 2012 and not a forecast of later years. It is expected that in years to come the economic impact of astronomy will increase due to the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope and Thirty Meter Telescope projects, now under construction on Maui and Hawai‘i, respectively. Note that the size of the impact cited in the report may be lower than the actual impact, since the study did not include astronomy-related activities by the U.S. Air Force on Maui nor the non-IfA activities on Mauna Loa, and the visitor-related expenditures were underestimated, as explained in the report.
Despite a malfunction that ended its primary mission in May 2013, NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has discovered a new super-Earth using data collected during its “second life,” known as the K2 mission.
IfA astronomer Christoph Baranec supplied confirming data with his Robo-AO instrument mounted on the Palomar 1.5-meter telescope, and former IfA graduate student Brendan Bowler, now a Joint Center for Planetary Astronomy postdoctoral fellow at Caltech, provided additional confirming observations using the Keck II adaptive optics system on Maunakea.
An international team of researchers analyzing decades of observations from many facilities, including the W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea and the Pan-STARRS1 telescope on Haleakala, as well as NASA’s Swift satellite, has discovered an unusual source of light in a galaxy some 90 million light-years away. The team was led by Michael Koss, who was a postdoctoral fellow at the IfA during most of the time the study was ongoing.
IfA astronomer John Tonry has been named a recipient of the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for the discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, rather than slowing as had been long assumed. He shares the award with the other members of the High-Redshift Supernova Search Team and with members of the Supernova Cosmology Project.
A team of astronomers let by IfA astronomer Karen Meech are announcing today (November 10) the discovery of two unusual objects in comet-like orbits that originate in the Oort cloud but with almost no activity, giving scientists a first look at their surfaces. These result are particularly intriguing because the surfaces are different from what astronomers expected, and they give us clues about the movement of material in the early solar system as the planets were assembled.