May 2008

Small Rocky Worlds by the Billions?

May 31, 2008

My local paper is running a story on page 11A entitled “Astronomers Report Earth-like Planet.” It’s a tantalizing headline, but obviously one that bears further investigation. For what’s being reported here is background information on one of the 45 planets — I should say ‘candidate’ planets — recently discussed at the Boston meeting of the […]

Read the full article →

Exoplanet Update and GLAST News

May 30, 2008

Following up on yesterday’s post on EPOCh, the extended exoplanet mission of the Deep Impact spacecraft, I want to mention that principal investigator Drake Deming (NASA GSFC) will be in my old home town of St. Louis on June 2 as part of the 212th meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Deming will be giving […]

Read the full article →

EPOCh Mission Now Focusing On GJ 436

May 29, 2008

I recently wrote about EPOXI, the dual-purpose extended mission being flown by the Deep Impact spacecraft. Yes, this is the same spacecraft that delivered an impactor to comet Tempel 1 with such spectacular results back in 2005. The vehicle now proceeds to a flyby of comet Hartley 2, but along the way a second extended […]

Read the full article →

Milky Way Re-Sized

May 28, 2008

If you want to understand the size of the Milky Way, you have to know something about how fast stars move. Measuring the velocities of stars in the galaxy’s stellar halo — a spherical halo of old stars and globular clusters surrounding the disk — you can figure out the mass of the whole by […]

Read the full article →

Astrobiology: Finding a Place Like Ours

May 27, 2008

It’s not my usual practice to begin a post with a quotation, but Lee Billings, writing in a recent essay for SEED Magazine, so precisely captures an essential truth about our future in space that I want to give it pride of place. Looking at the ways we search for life on planets around other […]

Read the full article →

IAU: COROT’s Unusual Catch and More

May 26, 2008

Yesterday’s high-tension arrival on Mars raises inescapable thoughts about future missions. Even the fastest spacecraft we can build today take years to reach the outer planets (New Horizons won’t reach Pluto/Charon until 2015), and targets deep in the Kuiper Belt, much less the Oort Cloud, conjure up potential missions longer than a human lifetime. Imagine […]

Read the full article →

All Eyes on Mars

May 24, 2008

I usually point readers to articles on interstellar issues when the weekly Carnival of Space comes out. But this time, with the polar regions of Mars on everyone’s mind, I’ll focus instead on the Red Planet. Todd Flowerday, who hosts the current Carnival at his Catholic Sensibility site, obviously shares my predilection. Todd’s been following […]

Read the full article →

Monster Flare on Nearby Red Dwarf

May 23, 2008

From the standpoint of planetary detections, the small red stars called M dwarfs are all but ideal. Their size is an advantage because radial velocity and transit methods should find it easier to pull the signature of smaller planets out of the statistical noise. Not so long ago, that wouldn’t have seemed important because the […]

Read the full article →

A Galactic Neutrino Network?

May 22, 2008

SETI quite naturally started with the assumption that we should look in the realm of photons for signals from other stars. After all, radio or optical wavelengths were things we understood, and the interest in radio and attendant theorizing about ‘waterhole’ frequencies and interstellar beacons continues to be worth examining. But a truly advanced civilization […]

Read the full article →

Birth of a Supernova

May 21, 2008

If the pace of discovery seems to be accelerating, that’s surely because of the network of tools we’re putting into place, able to work with each other both in space and on the ground to ferret out new information. Thus the collaborative effort that followed the remarkable observation of a new supernova, one caught so […]

Read the full article →