Mars-mimicking chamber explores habitability of other planets

A research team in Spain has the enviable job of testing out new electromechanical gear for potential use in future missions to the "Red Planet." They do it within their Mars environmental simulation chamber, which is specially designed to mimic conditions on the fourth planet from the sun -- right down to its infamous Martian dust.

NASA's Space Sunflower may help snap pictures of planets

A spacecraft that looks like a giant sunflower might one day be used to acquire images of Earth-like rocky planets around nearby stars. The prototype deployable structure, called a starshade, is being developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

‘Death Stars’ in Orion blast planets before they even form

The Orion Nebula is home to hundreds of young stars and even younger protostars known as proplyds. Many of these nascent systems will go on to develop planets, while others will have their planet-forming dust and gas blasted away by the fierce ultraviolet radiation emitted by massive O-type stars that lurk nearby.

Coldest Brown Dwarfs blur lines between stars and planets

Astronomers are constantly on the hunt for ever-colder star-like bodies, and two years ago a new class of objects was discovered by researchers using NASA's WISE space telescope. However, until now no one has known exactly how cool their surfaces really are - some evidence suggested they could be room temperature.

NASA study shows disks don't need planets to make patterns

Many young stars known to host planets also possess disks containing dust and icy grains, particles produced by collisions among asteroids and comets also orbiting the star. These debris disks often show sharply defined rings or spiral patterns, features that could signal the presence of orbiting planets.

These planets are in habitable zone of a nearby star

Gliese 667C is a very well-studied star. Just over one third of the mass of the Sun, it is part of a triple star system known as Gliese 667 (also referred to as GJ 667), 22 light-years away in the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion).

Hunting for planets during a rare stellar alignment

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope will have two opportunities in the next few years to hunt for Earth-sized planets around the red dwarf Proxima Centauri.

Putting planets in a petri dish with NASA's Spitzer

Our Milky Way galaxy is teeming with a wild variety of planets. In addition to our solar system's eight near-and-dear planets, there are more than 800 so-called exoplanets known to circle stars beyond our sun.

Astronomers scope out alien solar system in detail

Researchers say they've conducted the first reconnaissance of a distant planetary system, collecting the spectra of four red exoplanets which orbit a star 128 light years away from Earth.

Earthlike planets could be close at hand

There's probably an Earth-sized planet with a comfortable temperature as little as 13 light years away, data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope implies.

Old star may still be making planets

Astronomers using the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Telescope have spotted a star that appears to be making new planets, despite being well past the age at which it would be expected to do so.

Vega encircled by asteroid belt

Astronomers believe they've found a large asteroid belt around Vega, the second brightest star in northern night skies.

'Billions' of planets in habitable zones, says NASA

NASA's Kepler mission has discovered four new planets that are less than twice the size of Earth and which orbit in their star's habitable zone.

Tau Ceti has habitable planet, just 12 light years away

One of the closest stars to our own, Tau Ceti, appears to have five planets, including one that's in the so-called habitable zone and could be suitable for life.

Solar system 'not so special as thought'

Our solar system didn't, as previously thought, take twice as long as most to form, new research shows.

ESA steps up search for Earth-like planets

The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded funding to a project aimed at identifying Earth-like planets that could be capable of supporting life.

Planets found in stellar cluster

Astronomers have, for the first time, spotted planets orbiting sun-like stars in a crowded cluster - the best evidence yet that planets can form in dense stellar environments.

Planets can form in galactic center

The center of the galaxy is not only a crowded place, it's blasted by shock waves, bathed in radiation and warped by owerful gravitational forces from the supermassive black hole  at the region's heart.

Habitable planets could be more widespread than thought

There could be seven times as many potentially habitable planets as previously believed, Scottish scientists have calculated.

Pair of planets found orbiting twin suns

NASA's Kepler mission has for the first time discovered multiple planets orbiting a pair of stars, showing it's possible for more than one planet to be formed and survive in such a chaotic environment.