space

NASA

From Texas Standard:

Big news this morning from NASA’s planet-hunting mission: The Kepler Space Telescope at the University of Texas' McDonald Observatory has revealed the most Earthlike planet found to date, researchers say. The planet, called Kepler-452b, lies in the constellation Cygnus, about 1,400 light years from Earth. It qualifies as super-Earth-sized, as it's about 1.6 times larger than Earth, and its orbital period is quite similar to ours, at 385 days.

The Kepler scope was launched in 2009 to detect Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zones of distant stars — planets that have the potential to sustain life like that on Earth.

“We are pushing toward Earth 2.0,” McDonald Observatory astronomer Michael Endl said in a press release. “This planet is probably the most similar to Earth yet found.”

gsfc/flickr

From Texas Standard:

When you think of space, what do you see? Planets, stars, maybe a satellite or a shuttle? Well, some business people are seeing green. A group of space entrepreneurs is meeting in Austin this week to lay the framework for how Texas could be the launch pad for the private space industry.

Hundreds of millions of miles from Earth, a man-made object was flung at a comet Wednesday — and now it's sticking to the rock as it hurtles through space.

"We are on the comet," Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager, announced Wednesday, marking a historic achievement.

Ivan Ramirez/Tim Jones/McDonald Observatory

When Ivan Ramirez started his search about a year ago, he really didn’t think he’d find much.

"We expected it to be either one or zero," says Ramirez, an astronomer at UT-Austin.

Ramirez and his crew were looking through thousands and thousands of stars – all in order to find just the right one. 

“We're looking for the stars that were born with the sun," he says. "Because our sun, like most other stars, was born in a cluster – probably a thousand to ten thousand other stars. We know that there are a few that we can detect that are nearby, but it’s been a really tough job to do."

GMTO.org

Update: UT-Austin has received the green light to participate in the construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope. When constructed, it will be the world's largest telescope. 

The UT System Board of Regents authorized UT-Austin to put $50 million of its research reserves toward the project, and allowed the university to raise an additional $50 million in donations. 

“Being a charter investor in this remarkable scientific tool will benefit our students, our faculty and the whole university,” UT-Austin President Bill Powers said in a statement Friday.“Not only will we be helping to answer the most basic questions about our universe, but our involvement will underscore our status as a top world university. This is the leading edge of science, and it is where Texas must be.”

V. Tilvi, S.L. Finkelstein, C. Papovich, and the Hubble Heritage Team

A team led by a UT Austin astronomer has identified and measured the distance to the most distant galaxy found so far.

The galaxy — designated z8_GND_5296 — is so far away from Earth that the light we are now able to see from it was emitted more than 13 billion years ago. So we're seeing it as it was in the distant past.

"We're seeing it very close to the Big Bang. About 700 million years after the Big Bang," says UT astronomer Steve Finkelstein, who led the project. He says ultimately, far, far away galaxies like this one may help us understand things closer to home. “We want to study very distant galaxies to learn how galaxies change with time, which helps us understand how the Milky Way came to be.” 

Luke Quinton/KUT News

How big is a satellite? Well, that depends. The University of Texas’s Satellite Design Lab just won a competition for its “cube satellite.” So just how small is a cube?

“The dimensions of the spacecraft are essentially the size of a loaf of bread,” said Katharine Brumbaugh, a Ph.D. student at the satellite lab. Her team’s cube satellite, Armadillo, just won a competition run by the Air Force, beating out nine other universities in the “cubesat” category.