October 20th, 2018: International Observe The Moon Night

The moon, or supermoon, is seen as it sets over the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on Monday, Nov. 14, 2016. A supermoon occurs when the moon’s orbit is closest (perigee) to Earth. Early Monday morning, the moon was the closest it has been to Earth since 1948 and it appeared 30 percent brighter and 14 percent bigger than the average monthly full moon. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)
The moon, or supermoon, is seen as it sets over the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on Monday, Nov. 14, 2016. A supermoon occurs when the moon’s orbit is closest (perigee) to Earth. Early Monday morning, the moon was the closest it has been to Earth since 1948 and it appeared 30 percent brighter and 14 percent bigger than the average monthly full moon. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Please join us on the evening of Saturday 20 October, 2018 from 7 to 9 PM to participate and celebrate the 2018 edition of International Observe the Moon Night! We will have telescopes set up on the roof (9th floor) of UCLA’s Mathematical Sciences Building. It’s FREE, open to the public, and you’ll be able to observe the Moon (weather permitting).

Specific information and details on International Observe The Moon Night hosted by UCLA’s Institute for Planets and Exoplanets can be found at:



December 08, 2017: Variability in Planetary Debris Discs Around White Dwarfs

Talk Title: Variability in Planetary Debris Discs Around White Dwarfs

A significant fraction of white dwarfs host remnant planetary systems, signposted by dusty debris discs fed by the tidal disruption of a rocky planetesimal. Some also contain gas, indicating that these are dynamically active systems. Repeated observations of these gas discs show variations on both long (decadal) and short (hourly) time-scales. I will present the first image of a gaseous debris disc, produced from fourteen years of spectroscopic monitoring of the prototypical SDSS J1228+1040, discuss possible explanations of the short-term variability, and the overall understanding of these gaseous discs in the context of evolved planetary systems.

UCLA Astronomers Confirm the Very First Existence of an Asteroid Beyond Our Solar System

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A newly discovered object from another star system that’s passing through ours is shaped like a giant pink fire extinguisher.

That’s the word this week from astronomers who have been observing this first-ever confirmed interstellar visitor.

“I’m surprised by the elongated shape – nobody expected that,” said astronomer David Jewitt of the University of California, Los Angeles, who led the observation team that reported on the characteristics.

Scientists are certain this asteroid or comet originated outside our solar system. First spotted last month by the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii, it will stick around for another few years before departing our sun’s neighborhood.

Jewitt and his international team observed the object for five nights in late October using the Nordic Optical Telescope in the Canary Islands and the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona.

At approximately 100 feet by 100 feet by 600 feet (30 meters buy 30 meters by 180 meters), the object has proportions roughly similar to a fire extinguisher — though not nearly as red, Jewitt said Thursday. The slightly red hue — specifically pale pink — and varying brightness are remarkably similar to asteroids in our own solar system, he noted.

Astronomer Jayadev Rajagopal said in an email that it was exciting to point the Arizona telescope at such a tiny object “which, for all we know, has been traveling through the vast emptiness of space for millions of years.”

“And then by luck passes close enough for me to be able to see it that night!”

The object is so faint and so fast — it’s zooming through the solar system at 40,000 mph (64,000 kph) — it’s unlikely amateur astronomers will see it.

In a paper to the Astrophysical Journal Letters, the scientists report that our solar system could be packed with 10,000 such interstellar travelers at any given time. It takes 10 years to cross our solar system, providing plenty of future viewing opportunities, the scientists said.

Trillions of objects from other star systems could have passed our way over the eons, according to Jewitt.

It suggests our solar system ejected its own share of asteroids and comets as the large outer planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune — formed.

Why did it take so long to nail the first interstellar wanderer?

“Space is big and our eyes are weak,” Jewitt explained via email.

Anticipating more such discoveries, the International Astronomical Union already has approved a new designation for cosmic interlopers. They get an “I” for interstellar in their string of letters and numbers. The group also has approved a name for this object: Oumuamua (OH’-moo-ah-moo-ah) which in Hawaiian means a messenger from afar arriving first.

The Scientific Paper is available HERE: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1711.05687.pdf

And you can read more HERE: https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/11/16/science/ap-us-sci-interstellar-visitor.html

As well as HERE: https://www.noao.edu/news/2017/pr1706.php

Exploring Your Universe 2017!

Color Logo - Large

This year’s Exploring Your Universe (EYU) event at UCLA will be held on Sunday, November 5th, 2017.  Exploring Your Universe is an annual event held on the UCLA campus that includes science exhibitions, hands-on activities, demonstrations and experiments.  The event is free, open to the public, and promises an exciting time and a great learning experience for kids and adults alike.

EYU 2017 will be held in UCLA’s Court of Sciences (located in South Campus) from 12PM-5PM. Nighttime activities will take place from 5PM-8PM (weather permitting). Parking is available in Parking Structure #2 but expected to sell out so please be sure to arrive early.

To read more about previous years’ EYU events and other iPLEX outreach events, please visit our Exploring Your Universe page and stay tuned for more updates!

Be sure to follow @UCLAiPLEX (Twitter, Instagram), uclaiplex.tumblr.com (Tumblr) and @eyu_ucla (Twitter)

NASA’s Hubble Observes the Farthest Active Inbound Comet Yet Seen

UCLA’s Professor David Jewitt has most recently been involved in using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to image the farthest active inbound comet yet seen.

The Comet that Came in from the Cold

A solitary frozen traveler has been journeying for millions of years toward the heart of our planetary system. The wayward vagabond, a city-sized snowball of ice and dust called a comet, was gravitationally kicked out of the Oort Cloud, its frigid home at the outskirts of the solar system. This region is a vast comet storehouse, composed of icy leftover building blocks from the construction of the planets 4.6 billion years ago.

The comet is so small, faint, and far away that it eluded detection. Finally, in May 2017, astronomers using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) in Hawaii spotted the solitary intruder at a whopping 1.5 billion miles away – between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus. The Hubble Space Telescope was enlisted to take close-up views of the comet, called C/2017 K2 PANSTARRS (K2).

The comet is record-breaking because it is already becoming active under the feeble glow of the distant Sun. Astronomers have never seen an active inbound comet this far out, where sunlight is merely 1/225th its brightness as seen from Earth. Temperatures, correspondingly, are at a minus 440 degrees Fahrenheit. Even at such bone-chilling temperatures, a mix of ancient ices on the surface – oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide – is beginning to sublimate and shed as dust. This material balloons into a vast 80,000-mile-wide halo of dust, called a coma, enveloping the solid nucleus.

Astronomers will continue to study K2 as it travels into the inner solar system, making its closest approach to the Sun in 2022.

Read more about Comet C/2017 K2 HERE




21 August 2017: The Great UCLA Eclipse


Be sure to join us on Monday the 21st of August 2017 from 9:30AM to 11:30AM for ‘The Great UCLA Eclipse’ at UCLA’s Court of Sciences. A partial Solar Eclipse (~60 percent coverage) will be visible at UCLA and we would like to showcase exceptional research and our collaboration between Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, Astronomy Live! and The Optical Society (UCLA Chapter).

Solar telescopes will be set up (weather permitting) for you to get to safely see this eclipse. FREE, FUN and open to the public! 300 Solar Eclipse glasses will be given away, first come, first served to the public as well!

Stay tuned to this page for more details, and be sure to use hashtag #UCLAeclipse on your social media!

Local times for eclipse in Los Angeles on Monday, August 21, 2017

Event Time in Los Angeles Direction Altitude Comments
Partial Eclipse begins Aug 21 at 9:05:42 am 98°East 33.4° The Moon touches the Sun’s edge.
Maximum Eclipse Aug 21 at 10:21:10 am 113°East-southeast 48.4° Moon is closest to the center of the Sun.
Partial Eclipse ends Aug 21 at 11:44:44 am 140°Southeast 62.5° The Moon leaves the Sun’s edge.
Times are local for Los Angeles (PDT – Pacific Daylight Time).




Image Credit: GreatAmericanEclipse.com

Media Contacts:

Emmanuel Masongsong: emasongsong@igpp.ucla.edu (EPSS)
Xinnan Du: xinnandu@gmail.com (Astronomy Live!)
Jacky Chan: jckchan@ucla.edu (Optical Society of America)
Dr. Marco Velli: mvelli@ucla.edu (Parker Solar Probe Observatory Scientist)
Dr. Vassilis Angelopoulos: vassilis@ucla.edu (Principal Investigator of NASA’s Electron Losses and Fields Investigation [ELFIN])
Dr. Ed Young: eyoung@epss.ucla.edu (Professor of Cosmochemistry)
Dr. Jean-Luc Margot: jlm@epss.ucla.edu (Professor and Chair of UCLA’s EPSS Department)
Also, be sure to follow @UCLAiPLEX and @UCLAEPSS on Social Media!

UCLA EPSS Prof. Margaret Kivelson Wins American Astronomical Society’s 2017 Gerard P. Kuiper Prize

UCLA EPSS Professor Margaret Kivelson Wins American Astronomical Society’s 2017 Gerard P. Kuiper Prize
UCLA EPSS Professor Margaret Kivelson has won the 2017 Gerard P. Kuiper Prize, the highest award given to planetary scientists from the American Astronomical Society’s Division For Planetary Sciences. The Kuiper Prize is given for Outstanding Contributions to Planetary Science.
From the AAS news release:

“The Gerard P. Kuiper Prize for outstanding contributions to planetary science goes to Margaret G. Kivelson (University of California, Los Angeles, and University of Michigan) for her work studying Jupiter’s magnetospheric plasmas to understand the interiors of planets and their moons. Kivelson’s pioneering discoveries of an ocean inside Jupiter’s moon Europa and a magnetic field generated by neighboring Ganymede showed us that these icy bodies are not inert but dynamic worlds. Her insights have spurred us to recognize that habitability need not depend on proximity to the Sun in the traditional habitable zone. As a direct result of Kivelson’s advancements, we now recognize that the ocean worlds of the outer solar system may represent our best chances for discovering life beyond Earth.”

Congratulations Professor Kivelson!

2016-2018 iPLEX Macau University of Science & Technology (MUST) Fellows

The 2016-2018 iPLEX Macau University of Science & Technology (MUST) Fellows

The Institute for Planets and Exoplanets has signed an international collaboratory effort to bring expert scientists from the Macau Institute of Science & Technology (MUST) to meet, interact, and work alongside scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in order to foster growth among varying scientific fields and strengthen partnership amongst the scientific community.


UCLA Fall 2016 Quarter (Sept-Dec ’16): Pictured (left): Lianghai Xi, (middle): Dr. David Jewitt, (right): Guoping Hu


Version 2

UCLA Winter 2017 Quarter (Jan-Mar ’17): Pictured (left): Xiaojun Xu (mid-left): Dr. David Jewitt, (mid-right): Dr. Jing Li, (right): Dongdong Ni



UCLA Spring 2017 Quarter (Apr-Jun ’17): Pictured (left): Yi Xu, (right): Xiaoping Zhang


UCLA Winter 2018 Quarter (Jan-Mar ’18): Pictured (left): Chih-Hao Hsia, (right): David jewitt



UCLA Winter 2018 Quarter (Jan-Mar ’18): Pictured (left): Xiaoping Lu, (right): David jewitt

June 09, 2017: Planet X to be Discovered This Fall? Observational and Dynamical Constraints

Talk Title: Planet X to be Discovered This Fall? Observational and Dynamical Constraints

Abstract: An undiscovered ~10 Earth mass planet in our solar system has been hypothesized to explain the orbital characteristics of about a dozen of the most distant Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) and Inner Oort Cloud Objects (IOCs). I’ll present the observational evidence for the planet and explain why the evidence is unlikely to be due to observational bias. I’ve used the known KBOs and IOCs as an input for over two thousand dynamical simulations run on the Northern Arizona University High Performance Computing Cluster. These simulations suggest a probable search area for the planet of just a few hundred square degrees, about the apparent size of your outstretched hand against the sky. This fall, we should be able to confirm or rule out the hypothesized planet using Hyper Suprime-Cam on the Subaru 8 meter telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii and the Dark Energy Camera on the Blanco 4 meter telescope in Chile. Regardless of its discovery, additional distant KBOs and IOCs will be found and will help constrain future predictions.