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Astronomy & Space

UH students watch as NASA rocket launches Project Imua’s scientific payload into space

A two-stage Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket launched on August 12, 2015.

University of Hawai’i community college students watched their scientific payload spin into space on August 12 when a two-stage Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket was launched around midnight Hawaiʻi time from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Students from Honolulu Community College, Kapiʻolani Community College, Kauaʻi Community College and Windward Community College are part of a collaboration known as Project Imua, a joint ...

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Is there life in the Alpha Centauri system?

Artist’s impressions of Earth-like planets covered by photosynthetic organisms with terrestrial-like biopigments studied by the team. (credit: S. Berdyugina and C. Giebink)

The search for life on other planets is fascinating, challenging and enlightening. Scientists from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Institute for Astronomy, including Astronomer Jeff Kuhn, Instrument and Telescope Project Scientist David Harrington and Software Engineer John Messersmith, are part of a team headed by Professor Svetlana Berdyugina (Kiepenheuer Institut fuer Sonnenphysik and the University of Freiburg, Germany), a visiting ...

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UH astronomer to head division of International Astronomical Union

Artist's conception of a star (left) being ejected from a galaxy by a supernova explosion. In reality the supernova would have been faded away long before the star reached that position. Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA.

Nader Haghighipour, an astronomer at the Institute for Astronomyand the NASA Astrobiology Institute at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa has been elected president of Division F (planetary systems and astrobiology) of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) for 2015–18. Haghighipour will have an important role in promoting and encouraging the study of planetary systems around our sun and outside our ...

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Comet Wild 2: A window into the birth of the solar system?

Comet Wild 2

Our solar system, and other planetary systems, started as a disk of microscopic dust, gas and ice around the young Sun. The amazing diversity of objects in the solar system today—the planets, moons, asteroids and comets—was made from this primitive dust. NASA’s Stardust mission returned to Earth with samples of comet Wild 2, a comet that originated outside the orbit ...

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UH-led team successfully observes the solar eclipse over the arctic

Solar eclipse

The international Solar Wind Sherpas team, led by Dr. Shadia Habbal of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Institute for Astronomy, braved Arctic weather to successfully observe the total solar eclipse of March 20 from Longyearbyen on the island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago east of northern Greenland. Their preliminary results were presented at the Triennial Earth-Sun Summit in ...

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Robotically discovering Earth’s nearest neighbors

Artist’s impression of a view from the HD 7924 planetary system looking back toward our sun, which would be easily visible to the naked eye. Since HD 7924 is in our northern sky, an observer looking back at the sun would see objects like the Southern Cross and the Magellanic Clouds close to our sun in their sky. Art by Karen Teramura & BJ Fulton, UH IfA.

A team of astronomers using ground-based telescopes in Hawaiʻi, California and Arizona recently discovered a planetary system orbiting a nearby star that is only 54 light-years away. All three planets orbit their star at a distance closer than Mercury orbits the sun, completing their orbits in just 5, 15 and 24 days. Astronomers from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, the University ...

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New study uses meteorites to date moon-forming impact


Not too long after the planets began forming, a Mars-sized object slammed into Earth, creating the debris that would later coalesce into the moon. Some of the debris from this giant impact escaped all the way out to the asteroid belt. Collisions there left shock-heating signatures – a permanent record of the impact event – that can still be detected ...

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Fastest star in our galaxy propelled by a thermonuclear supernova

Artist's conception of a star (left) being ejected from a galaxy by a supernova explosion. In reality the supernova would have been faded away long before the star reached that position. Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA.

A team of astronomers, including UH Mānoa astronomer Eugene Magnier, used the 10-meter Keck II and Pan-STARRS1 telescopes in Hawaiʻi to find a star that breaks the galactic speed record. It travels at about 1,200 kilometers per second (about 2.7 million mph), a speed that will enable the star to escape from our Milky Way galaxy. “At that speed, you ...

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Second known case of planet in quadruple star system discovered

30 Ari star system

Researchers wanting to know more about the influences of multiple stars on exoplanets have come up with a new case study: a planet in a four-star system. The discovery was made at Palomar Observatory using two new adaptive optics technologies that compensate for the blurring effects of Earth’s atmosphere: the robotic Robo-AO adaptive optics system, developed under the leadership of ...

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Three-planet system holds clues to atmospheres of Earth-size worlds

Kepler spacecraft

Extrasolar planets are being discovered by the hundreds, but are any of these newfound worlds really like Earth? A planetary system recently discovered by the Kepler spacecraft will help resolve this question. The system of three planets, each just larger than Earth, orbits a nearby star called EPIC 201367065. The three planets are 1.5 to 2 times the size of Earth, ...

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