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Solar System Exploration
Astrophysics Missions
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Astrophysics Missions Mission to Beyond Our Solar System

Goals: Astrophysics missions focus on discovering the origin, structure, evolution and destiny of the Universe, and searching for Earthlike planets orbiting distant stars.

Accomplishments: Focused on the farthest reaches of space, astrophysics missions have exponentially increased our understanding of the Universe in only a few decades. Orbiting spacecraft have found hundreds of planets orbiting distant stars -- zeroing in on increasingly smaller targets. They pinpointed the age of our Universe (13.73 billion years) and logged the births and deaths of distant stars. Missions, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, also have produced some of the most iconic imagery of the space age.

Get the latest astrophysics news: NASA News Topics: Universe

Key Dates
1975:  Launch
Fast Facts
Astrophysics Facts Prospects for finding new worlds around other stars brightened in the 1980s when scientists made infrared observations of a disk of dust surrounding the normal star Beta Pictoris (right).

Their discovery provided the first unambiguous proof that flattened disks of matter exist around stars other than the Sun.

The first discovery of a planet orbiting a star similar to the sun came in 1995. The Swiss team of Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz of Geneva announced that they had found a rapidly orbiting world located blisteringly close to the star 51 Pegasi.
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Last Updated: 3 Nov 2010