Recent Discoveries


Astronomy News



In the last few decades, our space program has made many discoveries in astronomy that may be considered important for the existence of life on other planets and moons in our solar system and in systems beyond ours.  Some of the more recent discoveries are listed below. 


*   Water Vapor Found on Neptune-size Alien Planet  - a Neptune-size planet known as HAT-P-11b has been found to have telltale traces of water vapor in its atmosphere according to scientists. - September 24, 2014.


*   Three Nearly Earth-size Planets Found Orbiting Nearby Star: One is 'Goldilocks' Zone - a team of researchers led by University of Arizona scientist Ian Crossfield have discovered a red dwarf star located 150 light years from Earth with three planets only slightly larger than Earth, one of which orbits the so-called 'Goldilocks' zone where tempratures are mild enough for liquid water and perhaps life to exist.  Science - January 16, 2015


*   Large Methane Storms Discovered on Uranus - astronomers using the Keck telescope and the Hubble Space telescope have found large methane storms on Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun.  Astronomers are now trying to find out exactly what is driving these storms.  The Science Times - March 11, 2015


Curiosity Rover Finds Biologically Useful Nitrogen on Mars - an instrument onboard the Mars Curiosity Rover has made the first detection of nitrogen during a heating of Martian sediments session.  This adds to the evidence that ancient Mars may have been habitable for life.  NASA/JPL News - March 24, 2015


*   Mercury, First Planet From the Sun: Latest Discoveries - the Mercury MESSENGER spacecraft which went into orbit around Mercury in March, 2011 has ended its mission by crashing into the planet on April 30, 2015.  The mission made several discoveries during its time in orbit. - May 2015


NASA's WISE Spacecraft Discovers Most Luminous Galaxy in the Universe - a remote galaxy, the most luminous ever discovered, is shining with the light of 300 trillion suns.  NASA/JPL News - May 21, 2015


NASA's Hubble Telescope Detects 'Sunscreen' Layer on Distant Planet   Scientists using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has detected a stratosphere, one of the primary layers of Earth's atmosphere, on a massive and blazing-hot exoplanet known as WASP-33b.  NASA Press Release - June 11, 2015


Hubble Sees a 'Behemoth' Bleeding Atmosphere Around a Warm Neptune-Sized Exoplanet  - Astronomers using NASA's Hubble space telescope have found an immense cloud of hydrogen called "The Behemoth'  bleeding off a planet orbiting a nearby star.  NASA/JPL News release - June 24, 2015


NASA's Kepler Mission Discovers Bigger, Older Cousin to Earth - NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed the discovery of the first Earth-sized planet, called Kepler 452b, orbiting in the habitable zone of a sun-like star.   NASA/JPL News release - July 23, 2015


Unusual Red Arcs Spotted on Icy Saturn Moon - new, enhanced color images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft show unexplained arc-shaped, reddish streaks on the surface of Saturn's icy moon Tethys.  NASA/JPL News - July 29, 2015


What Did We Learn About Pluto? - by Fraser Cain - the New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto in July and took some amazing images of this distant planet in our solar system.  Universe - August 27, 2015


Blue, Neptune-Size Exoplanet Discovered Orbiting a Red Dwarf Star - Astronomers using the LCOGT network have detected light scattered by tiny particles through the atmosphere of a neptune-size transiting exoplanet.  Astrobiology - November 28, 2015


Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star - Astronomers have confirmed the existence of a planet orbiting in the habitable zone of the star Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to our solar system at 4.25 light-years away.  European Space Agency - August 24, 2016


*  Dawn Discovers Evidence for Organic Marerial on Ceres -  Scientists using NASA's Dawn spacecraft have found evidence of organic molecules in and around a northern hemisphere crater called Ernutet on the dwarf planet Ceres.  NASA News - February 16, 2017


* Warm Neptune' Has Unexpectedly Primitive Atmosphere   - Astronomers using combined observations from NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have found a distant planet called HAT-P-26b that has a primitive atmosphere made up of mostly hydrogen and helium.     The planet's atmosphere is relatively clear of clouds and has a strong water signature.  NASA/JPL News - May 11, 2017


Hubble Detects Helium in the Atmosphere of an Exoplanet for the First Time - The element helium has been detected in the atmosphere of an exoplanet known as WASP-107b by scientists using infrared spectra to study exoplanet extended atmospheres.   Science Daily - May 2, 2018