July 2007

Terrestrial Worlds: The Devil in the Details

July 31, 2007

In a world dominated by short-term thinking, we tend to be driven by media cycles. That makes the coverage of science, among other subjects, problematic. Science operates through the analysis of detail as various minds subject a problem to hypotheses that can be tested experimentally. In other words, good science often takes time, which is […]

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Galactic Drift and Mass Extinction

July 30, 2007

Theories that explain Earthly cataclysms through astronomy are always fascinating. The notion that a dwarf star dubbed ‘Nemesis’ orbits the Sun and occasionally stirs up cometary debris in the Oort Cloud emerged in the 1980s, published by two independent teams, one of which included Richard Muller. A UC-Berkeley physicist, Muller has since given up on […]

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Scaled Composites Support Fund

July 30, 2007

The recent deaths of three Scaled Composites employees — Charles Glen May, 45; Eric Blackwell, 38; and Todd Ivens, 33 — have brought sorrow to the young commercial spaceflight industry. Those wishing to support the families of the deceased as well as the employees injured in the explosion can do so through the Scaled Composites […]

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Asteroid Impacts and the Press

July 28, 2007

In a world where climate change is everywhere under discussion, its causes pondered and its effects debated as political fodder, I suppose it makes sense that The Economist would look at the danger posed by Earth-crossing asteroids in the same context. Thus the sub-title of its recent story on the subject: “The ultimate environmental catastrophe.” […]

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Black Hole Feeding Frenzy

July 27, 2007

A research team using data from the Chandra x-ray observatory has examined supermassive black hole activity in galaxy clusters of different ages. Also known as active galactic nuclei (AGN), the black holes are the result of rapid growth in gas-rich environments in the early universe, explaining why they are more common in young clusters than […]

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ESA’s DARWIN Proposal Online

July 26, 2007

The European Space Agency’s DARWIN mission proposal is now available online, well worth a look if you’re hoping to keep up with planet-hunter spacecraft technologies. With a launch date dependent upon the evolution of its technology, DARWIN probably won’t get off for another decade, but with a primary goal of detecting and studying terrestrial planets […]

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Quadruple System Planets?

July 25, 2007

HD 98800 is an unusual system indeed. About 150 light years away in the constellation TW Hydrae, the four stars that make it up consist of two binary pairs that circle each other. The distance between the two pairs is about 50 AU, which is roughly the average distance between Pluto and the Sun. Imagine […]

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Charging Up Interstellar Chemistry

July 24, 2007

Scientists studying the chemistry of interstellar space have identified around 130 neutral molecules along with perhaps a dozen positively charged molecules, but it was only late last year that the first negatively charged molecule — anion — was found, consisting of six carbon atoms and one hydrogen atom. It was a significant find because logic […]

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TV Looks at Saturn

July 24, 2007

Just a note that the History Channel’s series The Universe continues with a look at Saturn that is scheduled to run tonight at 9 PM EST here in the States, with a re-showing at 1 AM Wednesday morning. You can get a full schedule of repeat showings here — I notice the Saturn show pops […]

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A New Planet and Its Implications

July 23, 2007

What are the two most fundamental properties of the stars we study? If you said mass and chemical composition, you get the prize, at least as determined by the California & Carnegie Planet Search team. Their new paper lays out the discovery of a gas giant orbiting the M-class red dwarf GJ 317. And they […]

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