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5 February 2011

Five Awesome Things about the James Webb Space Telescope

Today I received an email from my adviser containing this – dare I say – awesome video about the James Webb Space Telescope. It also has a surprisingly well-put answer to the age-old question of “Why spend money on NASA when we have so many problems here on earth?” The answer: To make the world a better place you not only have to decrease the suck, you also have to increase the awesome.


20 January 2011

The Winds of Saturn are Blowing

Wow! That’s a big storm! And it’s even more dramatic to see a storm like this on Saturn, which is usually pretty uniform in color. This thing is really stirring up the atmosphere.


19 December 2010

AGU 2010 – Day 2: Shoemaker Lecture and Icy Moons

My massive summary of the Day 2 AGU planetary sciences talks, starting with the Shoemaker Lecture, and then covering Titan, Enceladus and other icy moons. Hydrocarbon volcanoes and icy geysers and hidden oceans, oh my!


9 December 2010

Hell on Earth (and Io)

If you don’t follow the Boston Globe’s photoblog The Big Picture, you’re really missing out. The topics range widely from current events to pictures of saturn, and the photos are of course always stunning. Yesterday was an especially awesome set of photos from the indonesian sulfur mine Kawah Ijen. The photos were taken at night, and sulfur has the interesting quality that it burns blue, resulting in some spectacular and otherworldly scenes of fire and brimstone.


4 November 2010

First EPOXI Images!

The flyby of Hartley 2 was a success and the first images are coming down! Check them out at the EPOXI site. In the highest-res images so far you can see that the comet has a distinct peanut-like shape and is very smooth around the narrow point.


24 July 2010

HP dv6t Select Edition Notebook Review: First Impressions

Please excuse me while I geek out about my new laptop… My work now involves some really significant number crunching, to the point that I was regularly using all the CPU and RAM of my previous laptop, and was then struggling to get anything else done while the calculations were running. And then they would crash. It also helps that I will soon need to renew the license on one …


23 July 2010

The Science of Starcraft: Creepy Slime Molds

My second article is up over at my new Science of Starcraft blog! This one is about the weird substance in the game called “creep” and its similarities to real-world slime-molds. Check it out! Even if you don’t play Starcraft, slime molds are really cool/weird. (PS – I swear I’ll be posting some real Martian Chronicles content soon instead of just pointing to articles elsewhere! But I’m trying to get …


5 July 2010

Branching Out

I have a confession to make: sometimes I don’t feel like posting about space. I know, this a shocking admission from a graduate student in Planetary Science. After all, grad students are supposed to live and breathe their topic of interest, right? Well, I still am really interested in space, but I’m also really interested in other stuff. For a long time now, I’ve struggled with the sometimes conflicting goals …


25 June 2010

What is the Best Dinosaur?

This is the funniest, most well-informed rant about dinosaurs I have ever witnessed (warning, NSFW language). I was a dinosaur freak as a kid, and I still remember a ridiculous amount about them. Can I just say how much I loved watching him shoot down people who thought plesiosaurs and pterodactlys were dinosaurs? Everything he says is correct except for one thing: Brontosaurus was (I believe) either a diplodocus head …


31 May 2010

Solar System Tour: Mercury

Mercury is the smallest planet in the solar system. It is 4,879 kilometers across. Compare that with our moon, which is 3456 km across, and you can see that Mercury is not very big. In fact, Jupiter’s moons Ganymede and Callisto and Saturn’s moon Titan are bigger! Even though those moons are bigger, Mercury weighs a lot more than they do because it is made of mostly metal and rock. …


28 May 2010

Solar System Tour: The Sun

Everyone knows about the sun, it’s that really bright thing that rises every morning and sets every evening. Not everyone knows much about it though. For example, did you know the sun is actually a star? Ok, so maybe you knew that. But if you’re so smart, what’s it made of? The sun is almost entirely hydrogen, with a bit of helium mixed in and a tiny amount of all …


29 April 2010

MarsSed 2010 Field Trip Day 2: Stromatolites, Gypsum and Layers

We started off Day 2 of the field trip by driving up onto the eroded rocks of what used to be the tidal flats of the ancient reef, between the shore and the continental shelf. The closest modern-day analog to the rocks that we visited is the Persian Gulf, where you have an arid climate and deposition on the shelf and down into the deeper ocean basin. In the tidal …


18 March 2010

Book Review: The Next 100 Years

You would think that since I’m working at Johnson Space Center right now, I would have exciting tales from inside NASA to share with you, but I’m afraid it has been pretty uneventful. I have however managed to read a couple of books, one of which was The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century, by George Friedman. This was a really fascinating book about using history and …


15 February 2010

Lasers Shooting Stuff

I posted about lasers last week and mentioned in passing that the US military was working on a giant plane-mounted laser to shoot down missiles. As if on cue, this video was released, showing infrared views of that very laser doing that very thing! And on a related note: good news for mosquito haters out there. The very same technology used to take down missiles is being used on a …


6 January 2010

Pulsar "Clocks" Will Help Find Gravity Waves

How do you detect a ripple in space-time itself? Go check out my article at Universe Today for the answer*. *Yes, technically the answer is also in the title of this post, but you should check out the Universe Today article for a little more detail.


20 December 2009

AGU 2009 – Day 3: Venus and the Moon

I’m splitting day 3 into two posts because there were so many interesting sessions. Stay tuned for the second post about astrobiology and society. But for now, Venus and the moon! I started the day off at the Venus session. One of the first talks I heard was by Cedric Gillman about the history of water on Venus. He suggested a very thick primordial H2O atmosphere with a surface pressure …


30 November 2009

Rings around the Earth – Implications

Last week I posted a video that speculates what it would look like if the Earth had rings like Saturn. Well, over at Quantum Rocketry, Joe Shoer has two excellent follow-up posts. First he calculated what the rings would really look like with gaps caused by Earth’s moons rather than just copying and pasting Saturn’s rings. Here’s a simulated image, but you should check out the full post for more …


23 November 2009

If Earth had Rings

There’s a great video making the rounds showing what it would look like if Earth had a ring system like Saturn’s, including some gorgeous views from the ground. Of course, rings probably wouldn’t be stable with our moon, or at least would look very different, but that doesn’t take away from the coolness of this video. Enjoy!


22 November 2009

Flying over Enceladus

Check out this awesome animation from the November 21 flyby of Enceladus (via the Planetary Society Blog). Remember, these are actual pictures, taken by an actual spacecraft! I’m constantly amazed at how close the Cassini team can get to Enceladus. This is the sort of cool fly-through I’d expect to see in the opening sequence of a Star Trek episode or something. To see it in real life is just …


21 November 2009

New Enceladus pictures!

The Cassini spacecraft just did a very close flyby of Enceladus, the icy moon of Saturn that has become famous for the plumes of water vapor billowing from its south pole, and the pictures coming back are so spectacular that they are taking seasoned planet-watchers by surprise. Here’s a teaser: a panorama assembled from the raw Cassini images by Stuart Atkinson at Cumbrian Sky. Check out his post for lots …