Exoplanets Current Affairs - 2019

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Insight Mars lander detects likely Marsquake

National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) InSight lander spacecraft has detected what’s believed to be a “marsquake” on the Red Planet. NASA scientists are still working to confirm the source of the faint trembling.

Scientists believe the trembling may not be due to wind or movement of the lander’s robotic arm but from below the Martian surface. If scientists confirm it would become the first seismic activity ever detected on Mars.

NASA’s InSight Lander Mission

NASA’s InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport is a Mars lander aimed to undertake the first-ever thorough checkup since it formed 4.5 billion years ago. Insight Mission will also measure tectonic activity and meteorite impacts on Mars.

NASA’s Insight is the first outer space robotic explorer to study in-depth the “inner space” of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core. Studying these internal structures will aid in answering the early formation of rocky planets in our inner solar system – Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars – more than 4 billion years ago, as well as rocky exoplanets.

Over 100 new exoplanets discovered using NASA’s Kepler Space telescope

Scientists have discovered cache over 100 new exoplanets using data from NASA’s Kepler Space telescope (KST) as well as ground-based observatories. Exoplanet also called as extrasolar planet, is planet that orbits star other than Sun. The discovery of 100 new exoplanets is expected to play large role in developing research field of exoplanets and life in universe.

Kepler Space Telescope

KST is an unmanned space observatory launched in 2009 by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It was tasked with determining how many Earth-like planets occur throughout the Milky Way galaxy.

It was designed for statistical mission and not to probe into environmental conditions of planets that exist in so-called Goldilocks zone (Habitable zone) of their stars. It finds planets by using transit method. It is detection of tiny brightness dips caused by planet after it crosses its host star’s face from spacecraft’s perspective. Transit method technique requires extremely precise pointing of spacecraft.

KST had experienced mechanical trouble in 2013, which led to successor mission called K2. Astronomers around the world are competing to confirm exoplanets suggested by K2 data. NASA had retired KST in November 2018 after it ran out of fuel needed for further science operations. In its mission lifespan of nine-and-a-half year, it had discovered over 2,600 intriguing exoplanets from outside our solar system some of which may harbour life.