Press Release

NASA Science Featured at Major Astronomy Conference

By SpaceRef Editor
January 7, 2019
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Astronomers, astrophysicists and other space scientists will gather to discuss their latest research at the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society this week (Jan. 6-10) in Seattle. Media can watch via the AAS website as research results featuring data from NASA missions are presented at news conferences throughout the week.


Listed below are three AAS news conference presentations featuring science from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, which is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Members of the media can ask questions during the events via the web by contacting the AAS media office in advance. See the AAS website for more details.


Citizen Science

In 2017, citizen scientists using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope helped discover a distant planetary system hosting five exoplanets — planets orbiting stars other than our Sun. Now, new follow-up research by scientists using Spitzer has helped identify a sixth planet in this system. Dubbed K2-138g, the sixth planet is larger and farther away from the star than the other five. All six are larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune, and scientists think it is possible even more planets reside in the system.


Kevin Hardegree-Ullman, a postdoctoral researcher at Caltech in Pasadena, will discuss the results at an AAS news conference on Monday, Jan. 7, at 10:15 a.m. PST (1:15 p.m. EST).


Permanently Cloudy Exoplanets

“Hot Jupiters” are large, gaseous exoplanets that orbit very close to their stars and are tidally locked, which means that one side of the planet always faces the star while the other is in permanent night. A new study based on Spitzer observations shows that clouds are universally present on the night sides of these planets. The results could explain peculiar atmospheric features previously observed in hot Jupiters by Spitzer and could impact our understanding of their climates, which are unlike any planetary climates in our own solar system.


Thomas Beatty, an astronomer at the University of Arizona in Tucson, will discuss the results at a press conference on Monday, Jan. 7, at 10:15 a.m. PST (1:15 p.m. EST).


Planetary Smashups

A planetary system is being born around the young star NGC 2547-ID8. Based on Spitzer observations, the burgeoning system shows signs of two major collisions between asteroid-sized bodies. Such collisions are thought to play a significant role in the creation of terrestrial planets like Mercury and Earth, as well as smaller bodies like the Moon.


Researchers previously identified signs of one violent collision in the system but have now discerned two separate events. This is the first time that two such collisions have been identified in a young system that is actively forming terrestrial planets, and indicates that these collisions occur more frequently than previously thought. The finding influences theories about the formation of planetary systems home to terrestrial planets like our own.


Kate Su, an astronomer at the University of Arizona in Tucson, will discuss the results at a press conference on Thursday, Jan. 10, at 10:15 a.m. PST (1:15 p.m. EST).


The news briefings will be streamed live on the AAS website:


NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena, California. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at IPAC at Caltech. For more information about Spitzer, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.