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3 February 2011

Planets, Planets Everywhere!

For there is a single general space, a single vast immensity which we may freely call Void; in it are innumerable globes like this one on which we live and grow. – Giordano Bruno, 1584 It’s looking more and more like Bruno was right. Yesterday the Kepler Space Telescope released its second batch of data, revealing an astounding 1235 new exoplanet candidates! For the uninitiated, Kepler is a space telescope …


7 January 2011

Strange New Worlds

I realized relatively recently that I like planets and I like speculative fiction for basically the same reason: strange new worlds just fire up my imagination.  That’s the topic of my latest post over at Science in my Fiction, where I take a look at some spectacular and bizarre real (or at least realistic) planetary locations that I think would be great settings for some sci-fi. I got a little …


3 January 2011

AGU 2010 – Days 3 and 4: Exoplanets, Impact Basins and Alteration

Now that it’s a New Year, it’s time I wrapped up my AGU 2010 recaps. This post covers Wednesday and Thursday, with lots of good stuff about super-earth exoplanets, impacts on the Moon and Mars, and lasers on Venus!


20 November 2010

It Came from Another Galaxy

It came from hundreds of thousands of light years away. Trapped in a dance of death with an ancient, doomed star, this behemoth interloper roves through our galaxy, thirsty for blood! Okay, maybe not that last part. But believe it or not, I’m talking about a recent press release from the European Southern Observatory, not a B-movie from the 50s. Earlier this week, ESO announced that a team of astronomers …


1 November 2010

Planets Like Grains of Sand

The other day I came across a press release announcing that nearly one in four sun-like stars could have planets as small as Earth. That’s pretty awesome! But I though it was especially interesting how they came up with this number. Current technology can’t quite see an Earth-sized planet around a sun-like star, so how do you count things that you can’t see? Well, you count everything else and then extrapolate.


15 July 2010

Hubble Confirms Comet-like Tail on Vaporizing Planet

Aren’t you glad our planet isn’t being vaporized by the heat of the sun? Me too, especially after writing this article over at Universe Today about an extrasolar planet that is suffering this fate. Go check it out!


22 June 2010

Carnival of Space #159

Hey, check it out! It’s the Carnival of Space over at Next Big Future! This week’s coolest article, which I somehow missed before this: the Kepler science team has found 750 possible exoplanets!


12 January 2010

How to cure the Avatar Blues

I was innocently browsing through my twitter list yesterday when I came across this article on CNN. The gist of it is that many people are experiencing depression after watching Avatar because the fictional world depicted is so beautiful and amazing that life back here on earth seems drab and boring. Many people have responded to this story with shock and derision, and this definitely hints at some pre-existing issues …


22 December 2009

AGU 2009: Day 4 – Enceladus and Exoplanets

Thursday at AGU started with a tough choice. At 8 am there was a talk about methane on Mars, and a special lecture about the water plumes on Enceladus, and plate tectonics on Venus! In the end I decided to go to the Enceladus lecture, given by Sue Kieffer. She explained that there are two primary models for how the Enceladus plumes form. The first is dubbed the “cold faithful” …


19 October 2009

Dozens of new Extrasolar Planets

The universe just got a little more crowded! is reporting that Astronomers using the European Souther Observatory’s 3.6m telescope in Chile have discovered 32 new extrasolar planets. The smallest of these could be ~5 earth masses, while the largest would dwarf Jupiter! Check out the full story here.


10 July 2009

Solar System Creator

As I mentioned last month, on top of research and grad school duties, I’m in the process of planning out a sci-fi novel. It began with the month-long outlining challenge “Midsommer Madness” over at the Liberty Hall writing site, and I am continuing with it in my spare time. I am trying to make my novel grounded in reality whenever possible. It is set in a known star system, 55 …


8 June 2009

Carnival of Space #106

Hello folks, apologies for the lack of posts lately. I have been keeping busy trying to write up a draft of a paper on the Gale crater landing site for MSL, which is taking a very long time and becoming very large. I don’t anticipate having lots of time to post here this month. Even as I work on the draft, I will be traveling out to Los Alamos National …


26 April 2009

Discoveries in Planetary Science

The Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society just released several short sets of slides summarizing recent important discoveries in planetary science that aren’t yet in textbooks. They are very nice, easy to understand summaries so I encourage you to check them out. The topics so far are: Mars Methane, Extrasolar Planet Imaging, The Chaotic Early Solar System, Mars Sulfur Chemistry, and Mercury Volcanism. Follow those links to …


28 March 2009

LPSC: The Masursky Lecture

Every year at LPSC one of the big events is the Masursky lecture, given by that year’s winner of the Masursky prize recognizing “individuals who have rendered outstanding service to planetary science and exploration through engineering, managerial, programmatic, or public service activities”. This year’s winner was Alan Stern, and he gave a thought-provoking talk about everyone’s favorite subject: What is a Planet? The official title was “Planet Categorization and Planetary …


25 February 2009

A Tidally Locked Earth

A while ago, I posted about an interesting abstract and poster at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference discussion the possibility that tidally locked exoplanets might still be habitable. Well, apparently the new Discovery series entitled “The World Without…” is doing an episode about what would happen if the Earth stopped rotating. One of their associate producers contacted me after reading my blog post about tidally locked exoplanets and asked …


18 November 2008

Mike Brown on Planet Images

Mike Brown (planet hunter extraordinaire) has a really interesting and thoughtful post on his blog about his reaction to the announcement that planets around other stars had been imaged. He details the process that he goes through when reading a paper and then preparing to speak to the press about it. Here’s the excellent quote that he gave to a reporter asking about the discovery: I can’t say the pictures …


13 November 2008

Extrasolar Planets Imaged by Hubble and Gemini!

There was a big announcement today: the Hubble space telescope has taken an image of a planet orbiting the bright star Fomalhaut! And not only that, the Gemini telescope has taken an image of TWO planets orbiting the star HR8799! Phil Plait has a nice and very excited post about this over at bad astronomy. You can also go straight to the source and read the JPL press release.  I’ll …


14 October 2008

DPS 2008 Day Three: More Titan, More Exoplanets

This morning I spent my time in the Titan Subsurface and Interior sessions, and I’m glad I did because there were some cool talks. There were a couple that showed possible evidence for cryovolcanism (that is, “volcanoes” where the “lava” is actually water freezing to become ice). One talk by Rosaly Lopes showed radar images of locations called Hotei Arcus and Western Xanadu, and suggested that the lobate features that …


11 October 2008

DPS 2008 Day One: Mars, Exoplanets, Defining Planets and Enceladus

Today was the first day of the Division for Planetary Sciences conference here at Cornell. All the talks are being live web-streamed, but since most of you probably don’t have time to sit and watch esoteric scientific talks online all weekend, here are the highlights from the sessions I saw today. In the morning, the first session that I went to was Mars Surface and Surface/Atmosphere Interactions. DPS is an …


15 September 2008

First image of another planet around a sun-like star!

Check it out – this is probably the first image of an extra solar planet around a Sun-like star! More specifically, the image above shows both the primary and companion of the star 1RXSJ160929.1-210524 (romantic, eh?), imaged at the Gemini North Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. The companion is about 8 times the mass of Jupiter, and has a radius about 17% of the Sun’s. One of the reasons …