Meet America’s #NewAstronauts

We’re so excited to introduce America’s new astronauts! After evaluating a record number of applications, we’re proud to present our 2017 astronaut class!

These 12 new astronaut candidates were chosen from more than 18,300 people who submitted applications from December 2015 to February 2016. This was more than double the previous record of 8,000 set in 1978.

Meet them…

Kayla Barron

This Washington native graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor’s degree in Systems Engineering. A Gates Cambridge Scholar, Barron earned a Master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Cambridge.

She enjoys hiking, backpacking, running and reading.

Zena Cardman

Zena is a native of Virginia and completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Master of Science degree in Marine Sciences at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her research has focused on microorganisms in subsurface environments, ranging from caves to deep sea sediments.

In her free time, she enjoys canoeing, caving, raising backyard chickens and glider flying.

Raja Chari

Raja is an Iowa native and graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1999 with Bachelor’s degrees in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He continued on to earn a Master’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.

He has accumulated more than 2,000 hours of flight time in the F-35, F-15, F-16 and F-18 including F-15E combat missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Matthew Dominick

This Colorado native earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of San Diego and a Master of Science degree in Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He graduated from U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.

He has more than 1,600 hours of flight time in 28 aircraft, 400 carrier-arrested landigns and 61 combat missions.

Bob Hines

Bob is a Pennsylvania native and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Boston University. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, where he earned a Master’s degree in Flight Test Engineering. He continued on to earn a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Alabama.

During the last five years, he has served as a research pilot at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Warren Hoburg

Nicknamed “Woody”, this Pennsylvania native earned a Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Doctorate in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkley.

He is an avid rock climber, moutaineer and pilot.

Jonny Kim

This California native trained and operated as a Navy SEAL, completing more than 100 combat operations and earning a Silver Star and Bronze Star with Combat “V”. Afterward, he went on to complete a degree in Mathematics at the University of San Diego and a Doctorate of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

His interests include spending time with his family, volunteering with non-profit vertern organizations, academic mentoring, working out and learning new skills.

Robb Kulin

Robb is an Alaska native and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Denver, before going on to complete a Master’s degree in Materials Science and a Doctorate in Engineering at the University of California, San Diego.

He is a private pilot and also enjoys playing piano, photography, packrafting, running, cycling, backcountry skiing and SCUBA diving.

Jasmin Moghbeli

This New York native earned a Bachlor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering with Information Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, followed by a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School.

She is also a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and has accumulated mofre than 1,600 hours of flight time and 150 combat missions.

Loral O’Hara

This Texas native earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Kansas and a Master of Science degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue University.

In her free time, she enjoys working in the garage, traveling, surfing, diving, flying, sailing, skiing, hiking/orienteering, caving, reading and painting.

Frank Rubio

Frank is a Florida native and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy and earned a Doctorate of Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

He is a board certified family physician and flight surgeon. At the time of his selection, he was serving in the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne).

Jessica Watkins

This Colorado native earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geological and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University, and a Doctorate in Geology from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

She enjoys soccer, rock climbing, skiing and creative writing.

After completing two years of training, the new astronaut candidates could be assigned to missions performing research on the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies, and launching on deep space missions on our new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

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We Just Identified More Than 200 New (Potential) Planets

The Kepler space telescope is our first mission capable of identifying Earth-size planets around other stars. On Monday, June 19, 2017, scientists from many countries gathered at our Ames Research Center to talk about the latest results from the spacecraft, which include the identification of more than 200 potential new worlds! Here’s what you need to know:

We found 219 new planet candidates.

All of these worlds were found in a patch of sky near the Cygnus constellation in our Milky Way galaxy. Between 2009 and 2013, Kepler searched more than 200,000 stars in the region for orbiting planets. The 219 new planet candidates are part of the more than 4,000 planet candidates and 2,300 confirmed planets Kepler has identified to date.

Ten of these worlds are like our own.

Out of the 219 new planet candidates, 10 are possibly rocky, terrestrial worlds and orbit their star in the habitable zone – the range of distances from a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of a rocky planet.

Small planets come in two sizes.

Kepler has opened up our eyes to the existence of many small worlds. It turns out a lot of these planets are either approximately 1.5 times the size of Earth or just smaller than Neptune. The cool names given to planets of these sizes? Super Earths and mini-Neptunes.

Some of the new planets could be habitable. 

Water is a key ingredient to life as we know it. Many of the new planet candidates are likely to have small rocky cores enveloped by a thick atmosphere of hydrogen and helium, and some are thought to be ocean worlds. That doesn’t necessarily mean the oceans of these planets are full of water, but we can dream, can’t we?

Other Earths are out there.

Kepler’s survey has made it possible for us to measure the number of Earth-size habitable zone planets in our galaxy. Determining how many planets like our own that exist is the big question we’ll explore next.

The hunt for new planets continues.

Kepler continues to search for planets in different regions of space. With the launch of our Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in 2018, we’re going to search for planets nearest the sun and measure the composition of their atmospheres. In the mid-2020s, we have our sights on taking a picture of small planets like Earth with our Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST).

*All images of planets are artist illustrations.

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What’s Up for July 2017

Prepare for the August total solar eclipse by observing the moon phases this month. Plus, two meteor showers peak at the end of July.

Solar eclipses occur when the new moon passes between the Earth and the sun and moon casts a traveling shadow on Earth. A total solar eclipse occurs when the new moon is in just the right position to completely cover the sun’s disk.

This will happen next month on August 21, when the new month completely blocks our view of the sun along a narrow path from Oregon to South Carolina.

It may even be dark enough during the eclipse to see some of the brighter stars and few planets!

Two weeks before or after a solar eclipse, there is often, but not always, a lunar eclipse. This happens because the full moon, the Earth and the sun will be lined up with Earth in the middle.

Beginning July 1, we can see all the moon’s phases.

Many of the Apollo landing sites are on the lit side of the first quarter moon. But to see these sites, you’ll have to rely on images for lunar orbiting spacecraft.

On July 9, the full moon rises at sunset and July 16 is the last quarter. The new moon begins on July 23 and is the phase we’ll look forward to in August, when it will give us the total solar eclipse. The month of July ends with a first quarter moon.

We’ll also have two meteor showers, both of which peak on July 30. The Delta Aquarids will have 25 meteors per hour between midnight and dawn.

The nearby slow and bright Alpha Capricornids per at 5 per hour and often produce fireballs.

Watch the full video:


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Infrared Echoes of a Black Hole Eating a Star : This illustration shows a glowing stream of material from a star, disrupted as it was being devoured by a supermassive black hole. The feeding black hole is surrounded by a ring of dust. This dust was previously illuminated by flares of high-energy radiation from the feeding black hole, and is now shown re-radiating some of that energy.

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