February 2008

Lensing: The Gravitational Imperative

February 19, 2008

We usually think of gravitational lenses in terms of massive objects. When light from a distant galaxy is magnified by a galactic cluster between us and that galaxy, we get all kinds of interesting magnifications and distortions useful for astronomical purposes. But gravitational lensing isn’t just about galaxies. It happens around stars as well, as […]

Read the full article →

Playing the Percentages: Terrestrial Planets

February 18, 2008

About two weeks ago we looked at the work of Michael Meyer (University of Arizona), whose team examined over 300 Sun-like stars (spectral types F5-K3) at mid-range infrared wavelengths. A wavelength of 24 microns detects warm dust, material at temperatures likely to be found between 1 and 5 AU from the parent star. The headline […]

Read the full article →

Jumper: Remembering ‘One Step from Earth’

February 16, 2008

When Hollywood met MIT last month in Cambridge, MA I suspect most of the students who jammed the on-campus lecture hall to discuss the new movie Jumper were thinking about Star Trek‘s famed transporters. After all, Jumper is a movie about a man who learns at a completely unexpected moment that he can teleport himself […]

Read the full article →

Near Twin of Jupiter Discovered

February 15, 2008

Finding solar system analogs is tricky business, as we saw yesterday when examining the discovery of Jupiter and Saturn-class worlds around a distant star. That find, I notice, is getting some attention in the popular media as an indication that our Solar System may not be unique. But take a look at the gas giant […]

Read the full article →

A Solar System Analog?

February 14, 2008

We always have to watch our preconceptions, an early one in the exoplanet game being that solar systems around other stars would look pretty much like our own. Then we started the whole exoplanet discovery binge by finding planets around a pulsar, of all things, and went on to the terrifically odd world of ‘hot […]

Read the full article →

Life Under Infrared Skies

February 13, 2008

So far we know of only one place in the cosmos that has life, our own Earth. That makes the study of interesting organisms, and in particular the so-called ‘extremophiles’ that stretch our understanding of livable habitats, a key part of astrobiology. Finding an organism living around a deep-water vent on the ocean floor doesn’t […]

Read the full article →

Arecibo’s Continuing Revelations

February 12, 2008

By Larry Klaes 2008 marks the 45th year of operation for the Arecibo Observatory, the largest single radio telescope on Earth. Maintained and operated by Cornell University since its opening in 1963, Arecibo has definitely made its share of contributions to our knowledge of the cosmos. To cite but a few examples, astronomers beamed powerful […]

Read the full article →

FN Tau: Small Planets Emerging?

February 11, 2008

We have a long way to go in the study of circumstellar disks, especially around smaller stars. Given the difficulty of making such observations, work at the Subaru Telescope has focused on stars more massive than the Sun in hopes of studying the more apparent structure of the disks around such stars. But FN Tauri […]

Read the full article →

Notes & Queries 2/9/08

February 9, 2008

‘Closed time-like curves’ are just the ticket if you want to travel in time. Theoretically, a sufficient distortion of spacetime could make a time machine possible, but Irina Aref’eva and Igor Volovich (Steklov Mathematical Institute, Moscow) take the idea out of the purely theoretical by suggesting that the Large Hadron Collider set to debut this […]

Read the full article →

EPOXI: Extended Exoplanet Mission Begins

February 8, 2008

When you have assets in space, the thing to do is redeploy them as needed. That creates what’s called an ‘extended mission,’ and the latest spacecraft to get one is Deep Impact, the vehicle whose impactor made such a splash when it was driven into comet Tempel 1 in the summer of 2005. That July […]

Read the full article →