Via a NASA-led citizen science project, eight people with no formal training in astrophysics helped discover what could be a fruitful new place to search for planets outside our solar system – a large disk of gas and dust encircling a star known as a circumstellar disk.
A paper, published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and coauthored by eight citizen scientists involved in the discovery, describes a newly identified red dwarf star, AWI0005x3s, and its warm circumstellar disk, the kind associated with young planetary systems. Most of the exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system, that have been imaged to date dwell in disks similar to the one around AWI0005x3s.
The disk and its star are located in what is dubbed the Carina association – a large, loose grouping of similar stars in the Carina Nebula approximately 212 light years from our sun. Its relative proximity to Earth will make it easier to conduct follow-on studies.
What do you need to bring, and how do you minimize the need for delivery of future supplies in order to establish a sustained human presence on a planet 140 million miles away from Earth?
NASA is embarking on an ambitious journey to Mars and Tuesday announced a challenge inviting the public to write down their ideas, in detail, for developing the elements of space pioneering necessary to establish a continuous human presence on the Red Planet. This could include shelter, food, water, breathable air, communication, exercise, social interactions and medicine, but participants are encouraged to consider innovative and creative elements beyond these examples.
Participants are asked to describe one or more Mars surface systems or capabilities and operations that are needed to achieve this goal and, to the greatest extent possible, are technically achievable, economically sustainable, and minimize reliance on support from Earth. NASA expects to make up to three awards at a minimum of $5,000 each from a total award pool of $15,000.
NASA’s efforts for sending humans to Mars is well underway today, with spacecraft monitoring Mars from orbit and rovers on the surface. The International Space Station is testing systems and is being used to learn more about the health impacts of extended space travel. NASA also is testing and developing its next generation of launch and crew vehicles — the Space Launch System rocket and Orion crewed spacecraft.
NASA’s two-prong approach is to build reusable space capabilities and incorporate commercial and international partners. By developing new technologies along the way and creating the systems necessary to maintain a permanent human presence in deep space, humanity will pioneer space, pushing out into the solar system to stay.
Given spacecraft limitations on weight and volume — and a minimum 500 days between resupply opportunities — innovative solutions are required for a mission to Mars that is not dependent on Earth for resources.
NASA seeks technical submissions that describe the development of capabilities and operational events necessary, in both the near- and long-term, to advance this bold journey. Submissions may consist of proposed approaches, capabilities, systems or a set of integrated systems that enable or enhance a sustained human presence on Mars. Solutions should include the assumptions, analysis, and data that justify their value. Submissions should include a process to develop, test, implement, and operate the system or capability.
Submissions will be judged on relevance, creativity, simplicity, resource efficiency, feasibility, comprehensiveness and scalability.