EurekAlert: Collection of starshade research helps advance exoplanet imaging by space telescopes. “- The open access Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments, and Systems (JATIS) has published a special section on the latest science, engineering, research, and programmatic advances of starshades, the starlight-suppression technology integral to extra-solar and exoplanet detection.”
Space: Volunteers wanted: NASA’s Planet Patrol wants your help to find alien worlds. “You can help NASA’s newest planet-hunting mission do its otherworldly work. The space agency just launched a citizen-science project called Planet Patrol, which asks volunteers around the world to sort through images collected by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).”
Space: You can build your own Earth 2.0 with the awesome website ‘Earth-like’. “You can now build your very own Earth 2.0! A new website allows users to create an Earth-like planet with a wide selection of options in an effort to demonstrate how many of the new exoplanets lauded as ‘Earth-like’ may not resemble our planet at all. The researchers behind this website hope to clear up some of the confusion about what the phrase ‘Earth-like’ really means.”
Phys .org: Introducing VPLanet: A virtual planet simulator for modeling distant worlds across time. “University of Washington astrobiologist Rory Barnes has created software that simulates multiple aspects of planetary evolution across billions of years, with an eye toward finding and studying potentially habitable worlds.”
Inverse: Can Hypergiant Actually Build Intergalactic Internet?. “Hypergiant, a company better known for its A.I. software, has turned its attention to expanding the world’s largest computer network beyond the Earth. The moon, Mars, and beyond could get connected to all the musings and memes accessible on the world wide web, using a relay network of satellites that will also host an archive of human knowledge. It may sound like a rather pointless endeavor — who lives on the moon? — but that could soon change.”
Space: Is Anyone Out There? New SETI Tool Keeps Track of Alien Searches. “Jill Tarter, a co-founder of the institute who inspired the fictional character Ellie Arroway in the Carl Sagan novel ‘Contact’ (which later became a 1997 movie), led the development of a newly announced web tool called Technosearch. This database includes all published SETI searches between 1960 and the present day.” I didn’t have a good understanding of a what a “SETI search” entailed – Sky and Telescope helped me out..
Sky & Telescope: Amateur Planet Hunters Have a New Online Resource. “Searching for planets outside our solar system might seem like a task best left to the pros. But amateurs have quite a bit to contribute as well. That’s the impetus for a new online database for collecting and archiving amateur exoplanet observations. The database, managed by the non-profit American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), will provide a central hub for the long-term monitoring that is essential for refining the orbits and properties of known exoplanets as well as looking for hints of worlds that have yet to be discovered.”
Space: Travel Through Space and Time with 400 Years of Planetary Maps. “Maps are a key tool for making sense of places we live or hope to one day explore, so it’s no wonder that for hundreds of years, humans have been creating maps of other worlds in our solar system. And more than 2,200 such maps, created over the course of four centuries, are now gathered on one website, unveiled at last week’s European Planetary Science Congress held in Berlin. The website, called the Digital Museum of Planetary Mapping, allows you to browse images by the decade of their creation, the world they depict or the type of data the map displays.”
Phys .org: Scientist develops database for stellar-exoplanet ‘exploration’. “[Dr. Natalie] Hinkel built a publically available database, called the Hypatia Catalog, to help researchers explore thousands of stars, as well as potential star-exoplanet systems, observed over the last 35 years. It’s the largest database of stars and their elements for the population within 500 light years of our Sun. At last count, Hypatia had stellar chemical abundance data on 6,156 stars, 365 of which are known to host planets. The database also catalogs 72 stellar elements from hydrogen to lead.”
CBC: Scientists call for protection of geological, historical sites on other planets. “A Canadian scientist is calling for action to protect significant geological and historical features on the moon, Mars, and other planets. Jack Matthews of Memorial University of Newfoundland says as nations and private companies increasingly explore and develop outer space, there’s a growing threat to extraterrestrial environments.”
ScienceBlog: Computer Searches Telescope Data For Evidence Of Distant Planets. “As part of an effort to identify distant planets hospitable to life, NASA has established a crowdsourcing project in which volunteers search telescopic images for evidence of debris disks around stars, which are good indicators of exoplanets. Using the results of that project, researchers at MIT have now trained a machine-learning system to search for debris disks itself. The scale of the search demands automation: There are nearly 750 million possible light sources in the data accumulated through NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission alone.”
Google Open Source Blog: Open Sourcing the Hunt for Exoplanets. “Recently, we discovered two exoplanets by training a neural network to analyze data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope and accurately identify the most promising planet signals. And while this was only an initial analysis of ~700 stars, we consider this a successful proof-of-concept for using machine learning to discover exoplanets, and more generally another example of using machine learning to make meaningful gains in a variety of scientific disciplines (e.g. healthcare, quantum chemistry, and fusion research). Today, we’re excited to release our code for processing the Kepler data, training our neural network model, and making predictions about new candidate signals.”
NASA is doing some crowdsourcing to help explore space. “For this project, participants are asked to look through data collected by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and help to separate real objects from system artifacts that can look like real objects (false positives). Citizen scientists will look for spots of light that move across the sky, signaling that those points of light are objects relatively close to Earth compared to the background stars.”
Now available: a new database for finding exoplanets. “Today, a team that includes MIT and is led by the Carnegie Institution for Science has released the largest collection of observations made with a technique called radial velocity, to be used for hunting exoplanets. The huge dataset, taken over two decades by the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, is now available to the public, along with an open-source software package to process the data and an online tutorial.” I had to look up what an exoplanet is. Space.com has a good overview.