Hubble Sees a “Behemoth” Bleeding Atmosphere Around a Warm Exoplanet

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have discovered an immense cloud of hydrogen dubbed “The Behemoth” bleeding from a planet orbiting a nearby star. The enormous, comet-like feature is about 50 times the size of the parent star. The hydrogen is evaporating from a warm, Neptune-sized planet, due to extreme radiation from the star. This phenomenon has never been seen around an exoplanet so small. It may offer clues to how other planets with hydrogen-enveloped atmospheres could have their outer layers evaporated by their parent star, leaving behind solid, rocky cores. Hot, rocky planets such as these that roughly the size of Earth are known as Hot-Super Earths. “This cloud is very spectacular, though the evaporation rate does not threaten the planet right now,” explains the study’s leader, David Ehrenreich of the Observatory of the University of Geneva in Switzerland. “But we know that in the past, the star, which is a faint red dwarf, was more active. This means that the planet evaporated faster during its first billion years of existence because of the strong radiation from the young star. Overall, we estimate that it may have lost up to 10 percent of its atmosphere over the past several billion years.” Caption: This artist’s concept shows “The Behemoth,” an enormous comet-like cloud of hydrogen bleeding off of a warm, Neptune-sized planet just 30 light-years from Earth. Also depicted is the parent star, which is a faint red dwarf named GJ 436. The hydrogen is evaporating from the planet due to extreme radiation from the star. A phenomenon this large has never before been seen around any exoplanet. Credits: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

Skylab (SL)-4 – Inflight (Crew)

S74-17306 (5 Dec. 1973) — Scientist-astronaut Edward G. Gibson, Skylab 4 science pilot, stands at the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM) console in the Multiple Docking Adapter (MDA) of the Skylab space station cluster in Earth orbit. This picture was taken with a hand-held 35mm Nikon camera. The ATM console was one of the busiest areas of the space station during the 84-day third manned Skylab mission, as Comet Kohoutek and solar activity were closely followed by the ATM and monitored by the crewmen from the ATM console. As Gibson demonstrated during a television transmission on Dec. 5, 1973, the ATM console controls several instruments on the solar telescope. Joining Gibson for the record-setting Skylab 4 mission were astronauts Gerald P. Carr, commander, and William R. Pogue, pilot. Photo credit: NASA

Australian impact crater taken by the Expedition Seven crew

ISS007-E-05697 (20 May 2003) — This image, photographed by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS), shows Gosses Bluff, an impact crater sandwiched between the MacDonnell Range to the north and the James Range to the south in Australia’s Northern Territory – it is about 160 kilometers west of Alice Springs. It is one of the most studied of the Australian impact craters. The impactor, an asteroid or comet, was, according to scientists, probably about 1 kilometer in diameter and crashed into the Earth about 142 million years ago. The isolated circular feature within the crater consists of a central ring of hills about 4.5 kilometers in diameter. The grayish feature surrounding the inner ring probably marks the original boundary of the outer rim.


S73-36901 (8 Nov. 1973) — Astronaut William R. Pogue, pilot of the Skylab 4 mission, relaxes on the running board of the transfer van during a visit to the Skylab 4/Saturn 1B space vehicle at Pad B, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center, Florida. On the morning of the launch the transfer van will transport astronauts Pogue, Gerald P. Carr, commander; and Edward G. Gibson, science pilot, from the suiting building to Pad B. Skylab 4, the third and last visit to the Skylab space station in Earth orbit, will return additional information on the Earth and sun, as well as provide a favorable location from which to observe the recently discovered Comet Kohoutek. Photo credit: NASA

Students Race Rovers on a Martian and Lunar-themed Obstacle Course

NASA’s Human Exploration Rover Challenge encourages STEM-based research and development of new technologies focusing on current plans to explore planets, moons, asteroids and comets — all members of the solar system family. This year’s race will be held March 30 – April 1, 2017, at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The challenge will focus on designing, constructing and testing technologies for mobility devices to perform in these different environments, and it will provide valuable experiences that engage students in the technologies and concepts that will be needed in future exploration missions. Rovers will be human-powered and carry two students, one female and one male, over a half-mile obstacle course of simulated extraterrestrial terrain of craters, boulders, ridges, inclines, crevasses and depressions. Follow them on social media at: TWITTER: FACEBOOK: Or visit the website at:

Apollo 14 Emblem

S70-17851 (September 1970) — This is the Apollo 14 crew patch designed by astronauts Alan B. Shepard Jr., commander; Stuart A. Roosa, command module pilot; and Edgar D. Mitchell, lunar module pilot. It features the astronaut lapel pin approaching the moon and leaving a comet trail from the liftoff point on Earth. The pin design was adopted by the astronaut corps several years ago. Astronauts who have not yet flown in space wear silver pins. Those who have flown wear gold pins. The NASA insignia design for Apollo flights is reserved for use by the astronauts and for other official use as the NASA Administrator may authorize. Public availability has been approved only in the form of illustrations by the various news media. When and if there is any change in this policy, which we do not anticipate, it will be publicly announced.

Tabby's Star (Illustration)

This illustration depicts a hypothetical uneven ring of dust orbiting KIC 8462852, also known as Boyajian’s Star or Tabby’s Star. Astronomers have found the dimming of the star over long periods appears to be weaker at longer infrared wavelengths of light and stronger at shorter ultraviolet wavelengths. Such reddening is characteristic of dust particles and inconsistent with more fanciful “alien megastructure” concepts, which would evenly dim all wavelengths of light. By studying observations from NASA’s Spitzer and Swift telescopes, as well as the Belgian AstroLAB IRIS observatory, the researchers have been able to better constrain the size of the dust particles. This places them within the range found in dust disks orbiting stars, and larger than the particles typically found in interstellar dust. The system is portrayed with a couple of comets, consistent with previous studies that have found evidence for cometary activity within the system.

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Photo Artwork composite by JPL This depiction of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacting Jupiter is shown from several perspectives. IMAGE A is shown from the perspective of Earth based observers. IMAGE B shows the perspective from Galileo spacecraft which can observe the impact point directly. IMAGE C is shown from the Voyager 2 spacecraft, which may observe the event from its unique position at the outer reaches of the solar system. IMAGE D depicts a generic view from Jupiter’s south pole. For visual appeal, most of the large cometary fragments are shown close to one another in this image. At the time of Jupiter impact, the fragments will be separated from one another by serveral times the distances shown. This image was created by D.A. Seal of JPL’s Mission Design Section using orbital computations provIded by P.W. Chodas and D.K. Yeomans of JPL’s Navigation Section.