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Astronomy & Space

Planets with the highest likelihood of harboring life identified

The Habitable Zones around stars with different surface temperatures. The figure also shows an artist’s rendering of the planetary candidates and confirmed Kepler planets that are smaller than twice the size of Earth. For comparison, Venus, Earth, and Mars are also shown.

A team of astronomers known as the Kepler Habitable Zone Working Group, including University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy astronomer Nader Haghighipour, has identified which of the more than 4,000 exoplanets discovered by the NASA Kepler mission are most likely to be similar to our rocky home. The research describes 49 Kepler-discovered planets with radii smaller than twice …

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Jupiter’s Great Red Spot heats planet’s upper atmosphere

Artists’ concept of the mechanism of heating from the Great Red Spot

Researchers from Boston University’s Center for Space Physics, using data from the Infrared Telescope Facility on Maunakea, operated by NASA and the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy, report today in Nature that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot may provide the mysterious source of energy required to heat the planet’s upper atmosphere to the unusually high temperatures observed. Sunlight reaching Earth …

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Earth-like planets among 100+ identified by UH, astronomers and NASA

100 earth-like planets

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy (IfA) and the Maunakea observatories play a critical role in major astronomical discoveries. In July 2016, NASA and an international team of astronomers announced that they identified 100 new planets, including five bearing similarities to Earth. “These are planets that orbit stars, outside of our solar system, other stars,” said Assistant …

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A chilling discovery about the universe’s molecular building blocks of life

Color-composite image of the Galactic Center and Sagittarius B2

Researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Department of Chemistry’s W.M. Keck Research Laboratory in Astrochemistry, along with colleagues at the universities of Virginia and Southern California, have provided conclusive evidence about complex organic molecules: formation of these key molecules, relevant to the origin of Earth’s living organisms such as aldehydes and ketones, is driven by a cosmic-ray-triggered nonequilibrium …

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[VIDEO] UH-led team uses NASA’s Dawn mission to identify icy craters on Ceres

Shadowed craters on Ceres, image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Might the dwarf planet Ceres have permanent ice deposits? Using NASA’s Dawn mission, a team led by Norbert Schorghofer, an astronomer at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy, has identified permanently shadowed regions on the dwarf planet Ceres. Most of these areas likely have been cold enough to trap water ice for a billion years, suggesting that …

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[VIDEO] Architecture is key for future Mars exploration

Mars architecture_310X165

No one ever said space exploration would be comfortable. Inhospitable environments, deadly atmospheres, the possibility of storms and other natural outer space disasters—how will humans be able to both survive and thrive on places like Mars? One answer, is architecture. “Our entire lives, on other worlds, are going to be contained within the buildings we make while we’re there or …

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[VIDEO] Newly discovered asteroid is Earth’s companion

Pan-STARRS 1 Telescope

Astronomers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Institute for Astronomy (IfA) discovered a small asteroid that has been in an orbit around the sun that keeps it as a constant companion of Earth. The asteroid, designated 2016 HO3, was detected in April by the Pan-STARRS telescope on Haleakalā, and subsequent research into Pan-STARRS archives revealed faint images of it as …

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[VIDEO] Astronomy program for Hawaiʻi high school students prepares future science leaders

The UH Mānoa Institute for Astronomy HI STAR class.

For a decade, a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Institute for Astronomy’s summer program has attracted middle school and high school students from across the state. It’s called Hawaiʻi Student/Teacher Astronomy Research or HI STAR. “This program introduces students from across the state of Hawaiʻi to the basic practices of science,” said Geoff Mathews, UH Mānoa astronomy instructor. “Science is …

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Largest, widest orbit Tatooine bolsters planet formation theories

Artist’s impression of the simultaneous stellar eclipse and planetary transit events on Kepler-1647. Such a double eclipse event is known as a syzygy. (Figure credit: Lynette Cook)

A team of astronomers, including University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy Associate Astronomer Nader Haghighipour, announced the discovery of an unusual new transiting circumbinary planet (orbiting two suns). This planet, detected using the Kepler spacecraft, is unusual because it is both the largest such planet found to date and has the widest orbit. The team is led by Veselin Kostov, …

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High school Maunakea Scholars reach for the stars

Maunakea Scholars and teachers on the Canada-France-Hawaiʻi Telescope catwalk in front of Gemini-North

Students from Waiakea and Kapolei High Schools spent the night at the Canada-France-Hawaiʻi Telescope (CFHT) in the inaugural Maunakea Scholars program. The program provides Hawaiʻi high school students direct access to some of the world’s most powerful telescopes as well as mentorship for independent astronomy research projects ranging from quasars to exoplanets. Andreea Petric, CFHT resident astronomer and University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy graduate …

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