October 12, 2017

NASA/JPL and Iowa State University press release

Tabby's Star (Illustration)

Reporting on the analysis of the visible and infrared light from "Tabby's Star", a star showing unusual light-dipping phenomena. Our ground and space-based data show that the most likely cause of such behavior is not the presence of an "alien megastructure" (as previously reported in the press), but rather circumstellar dust perhaps formed after some cataclysmic event in its planetary system. 

May 02, 2017

NASA/Ames and Iowa State University press release

epsilon Eridani disk (illustration by NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

Iowa State University's Massimo Marengo is part of a research team that has confirmed a nearby star's planetary system contains separate belts of asteroids, similar to our own solar system. The star is also about one-fifth the age of our sun. All that makes this star a good model of the early days of our solar system. The findings have just been published by The Astronomical Journal.

November 24, 2015

NASA/JPL and Iowa State University press release


A team of astronomers led by Iowa State's Massimo Marengo responded to the buzz about a mysterious dimming star by studying data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Were there natural explanations for the dimming? Or were alien megastructures blocking the star's light? In a paper recently published online, Marengo and his colleagues conclude the dimming was probably caused by a family of comets breaking apart in front of the star.

June 05, 2013

NASA/JPL, Iowa State University and AAS press release

 S. Willis (CfA+ISU); ESA/Herschel; NASA/JPL-Caltech/ Spitzer; CTIO/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Reporting on the discovery of a rich star forming region, NGC 6334 local to the Milky Way galaxy, that thanks to its high star formation rate can be described as a "starburst" region. It is the first time that such a region is identified in our Galaxy. This research was performed using the NASA Spitzer Space telescope, as well as the NSF-funded National Optical Astronomical Observatory Blanco Telescope at CTIO (Chile).

January 12, 2011

NASA/JPL and AAS press release

 NASA/JPL-Caltech/Iowa State

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope was able to show that a "standard candle" used to measure cosmological distances is shrinking -- a finding that affects precise measurements of the age, size and expansion rate of our universe.

August 23, 2010

NASA/JPL press release


NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope found evidence that planetary collisions could be common around a certain type of tight double, or binary, star system, referred to as RS Canum Venaticorums or RS CVns for short. The stars are similar to the sun in age and mass, but they orbit tightly around each other. With time, they are thought to get closer and closer, until their gravitational influences change, throwing the orbits of planetary bodies circling around them out of whack.  Astronomers say that these types of systems could theoretically host habitable planets, or planets that orbit at the right distance from the star pairs to have temperatures that allow liquid water to exist. If so, then these worlds might not be so lucky. They might ultimately be destroyed in collisions like the impending one illustrated here, in which the larger body has begun to crack under the tidal stresses caused by the gravity of the approaching smaller one. Spitzer's infrared vision spotted dusty evidence for such collisions around three tight star pairs.

October 27, 2008

NASA/JPL and Harvard-Smithsonian CfA press release


New observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope indicate that the nearest planetary system to our own has two asteroid belts. Our own solar system has just one. The star at the center of the nearby system, called Epsilon Eridani, is a younger, slightly cooler and fainter version of the sun. Previously, astronomers had uncovered evidence for two possible planets in the system, and for a broad, outer ring of icy comets similar to our own Kuiper Belt.  Now, Spitzer has discovered that the system also has dual asteroid belts. One sits at approximately the same position as the one in our solar system. The second, denser belt, most likely also populated by asteroids, lies between the first belt and the comet ring. The presence of the asteroid belts implies additional planets in the Epsilon Eridani system. 

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