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Post-scrub briefing
This post-scrub news conference occurred at 4:30 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, July 13 following postponement of Discovery's launch. (31min 30sec file)

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Discovery launch delay
Launch of space shuttle Discovery on the return to flight mission was scrubbed because of trouble with engine cutoff sensors in the external tank. (4min 45sec file)
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To the pad
The five-man, two-woman astronaut crew departs the Operations and Checkout Building to board the AstroVan for the ride to launch pad 39B. (3min 01sec file)
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Suiting up
The astronauts -- in two groups -- don their launch and entry partial pressure suits before heading to the pad.
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Pre-launch snack
Discovery's seven astronauts gather around the dining room table in crew quarters for a pre-launch snack before suiting up and heading to the pad. (1min 53sec file)
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Service tower rollback
Pad 39B's Rotating Service Structure is retracted from around shuttle Discovery Tuesday night in preparation for the first launch attempt. (4min 36sec file)
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Astronaut arrival
The Gulfstream jet carrying space shuttle Discovery's seven astronauts arrives at the Kennedy Space Center launch site after a two-hour flight from Houston. (5min 54sec file)
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Crew speaks
Each Discovery astronaut makes a speech to the assembled group of news reporters and photographers at the runway to cover the crew's arrival at Kennedy Space Center. (13min 57sec file)
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Shuttle collection
As excitement builds for the first space shuttle launch in over two years, this comprehensive video selection captures the major pre-flight events for Discovery and her seven astronauts.
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What is NASA's future?
Administrator Mike Griffin is the sole witness testifying before the House Science Committee in this hearing on the future of NASA. (2hr 01min 09sec file)
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Address to NASA
One day before beginning the space shuttle Flight Readiness Review, Administrator Mike Griffin gives a televised address to agency workers and answers questions. (26min 09sec file)

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Shuttle task group
The Stafford-Covey Task Group holds a news conference from NASA Headquarters following the panel's final public hearing on the space shuttle program. (55min 58sec file)

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Supply ship docking
The 18th Progress resupply ship launched to the International Space Station is guided to docking with the Zvezda service module's aft port via manual control from commander Sergei Krikalev. A problem thwarted plans for an automated linkup.

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House hearing on ISS
The House Science Committee, Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, begins its hearing on the International Space Station. (29min 59sec file)
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Phillips testifies
House members question Expedition 11 crew member John Phillips living on the International Space Station. (16min 33sec file)
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Past ISS astronauts
The hearing continues with questioning by House members of former station astronauts Peggy Whitson and Mike Fincke. (31min 33sec file)
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First planet under three suns is discovered
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY NEWS RELEASE
Posted: July 14, 2005

An extrasolar planet under three suns has been discovered in the constellation Cygnus by a planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology using the 10-meter Keck I telescope in Hawaii. The planet is slightly larger than Jupiter and, given that it has to contend with the gravitational pull of three bodies, promises to seriously challenge our current understanding of how planets are formed.


This illustration shows an artist's conception of the three suns and the newly discovered Jupiter-sized planet from the perspective of a hypothetical moon orbiting the planet. The large yellow sun is already halfway over the horizon, but the orange and red suns are still visible in the sky. Credit: Caltech
 
In the July 14 issue of Nature, Maciej Konacki, a senior postdoctoral scholar in planetary science at Caltech, reports on the discovery of the Jupiter-class planet orbiting the main star of the close-triple-star system known as HD 188753. The three stars are about 149 light-years from Earth and are about as close to one another as the distance between the sun and Saturn.

In other words, a viewer there would see three bright suns in the sky. In fact, the sun that the planet orbits would be a very large object in the sky indeed, given that the planet's "year" is only three and a half days long. And it would be yellow, because the main star of HD 188753 is very similar to our own sun. The larger of the other two suns would be orange, and the smaller red.

Konacki refers to the new type of planet as "Tatooine planets," because of the similarity to Luke Skywalker's view of his home planet's sky in the first Star Wars movie.

"The environment in which this planet exists is quite spectacular," says Konacki. "With three suns, the sky view must be out of this world-literally and figuratively."

However, Konacki adds that the fact that a planet can even exist in a multiple-star system is amazing in itself. Binary and multiple stars are quite common in the solar neigborhood, and in fact outnumber single stars by some 20 percent.

Researchers have found most of the extrasolar planets discovered so far by using a precision velocity technique that is easier to employ on studies of single stars. Experts generally avoided close-binary and close-multiple stars because the existing planet detection techniques fail for such complicated systems, and also because theories of solar-system formation suggested that planets were very unlikely to form in such environments.

Konacki's breakthrough was made possible by his development of a novel method that allows him to precisely measure velocities of all members of close-binary and close-multiple-star systems. He used the technique for a search for extrasolar planets in such systems with the Keck I telescope. The planet in the HD 188753 system is the first one from this survey.

"If we believe that the same basic processes lead to the formation of planets around single stars and components of multiple stellar systems, then such processes should be equally feasible, regardless of the presence of stellar companions," Konacki says. "Planets from complicated stellar systems will put our theories of planet formation to a strict test."

Scientists in 1995 discovered the first "hot Jupiter"-in other words, an extrasolar gas-giant planet with an orbital period of three to nine days. Today, more than 20 such planets are known to orbit other stars. These planets are believed to form in a disk of gas and condensed matter at or beyond three astronomical units (three times the 93-million-mile distance between the sun and Earth).

A sufficient amount of solid material exists at three astronomical units to produce a core capable of capturing enough gas to form a giant planet. After formation, these planets are believed to migrate inward to their present very close orbits.

If the parent star is orbited by a close stellar companion, then its gravitational pull can significantly truncate a protoplanetary disk around the main star. In the case of HD 188753, the two stellar companions would truncate the disk around the main star to a radius of only 1.3 astronomical units, leaving no space for a planet to form.

"How that planet formed in such a complicated setting is very puzzling. I believe there is yet much to be learned about how giant planets are formed," says Konacki.

The research was funded by NASA.

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Return to Flight mouse pad!
This unique 8-inch diameter mouse pad features the insignia for Discovery's STS-114 mission, the first shuttle flight since the Columbia accident.
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Ares 1-X Patch
The official embroidered patch for the Ares 1-X rocket test flight, is available for purchase.
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Apollo Collage
This beautiful one piece set features the Apollo program emblem surrounded by the individual mission logos.
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Expedition 21
The official embroidered patch for the International Space Station Expedition 21 crew is now available from our stores.
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Hubble Patch
The official embroidered patch for mission STS-125, the space shuttle's last planned service call to the Hubble Space Telescope, is available for purchase.
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