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  • October 25, 2010
  • 09:04 AM

Meteorite tea, and the failures of genius

by Lab Lemming in Lounge of the Lab Lemming

In the early 1970’s, Io, the innermost large moon of Jupiter, was somewhat of an enigma. Unlike Europa and Ganymede, it did not exhibit water ice adsorption bands it its IR spectra. Its density suggested that it was a rock and metal planet, but the surface reflectance was unlike anything known to science. This problem was addressed brilliantly in a Science paper by Fanale, Johnson, and Matson,... Read more »

Fanale, F., Johnson, T., & Matson, D. (1974) Io: A Surface Evaporite Deposit?. Science, 186(4167), 922-925. DOI: 10.1126/science.186.4167.922  

  • October 16, 2010
  • 10:37 PM

The Goldilocks Planet

by The Astronomist in The Astronomist.

Once upon a time there was a planet named Earth. It orbited exactly one astronomical unity away from a G2V type star. Billions of years went by and Earth found that it lived right in the habitable zone where liquid water was maintained on it surface and life spontaneously arose. Pretty soon life on Earth became restless, questioned its own existence, and looked for life on Gliese 581. Earthlings found many planets and exclaimed, 'Gliese 581 b is too hot, Gilese 581 c is slightly too hot, Glies........ Read more »

Steven S. Vogt, R. Paul Butler, Eugenio J. Rivera, Nader Haghighipour, Gregory W. Henry, . (2010) The Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey: A 3.1 M_Earth Planet in the Habitable Zone of the Nearby M3V Star Gliese 581. ApJ accepted. info:/arXiv: 1009.5733v1

  • September 13, 2010
  • 09:57 PM

When Will the First Earth-like Planet Be Discovered?

by Samuel Arbesman in

With news of new extrasolar planets being released nearly weekly, there is a general feeling that we are in the midst of a singular moment in cosmic discovery. And the news a few weeks ago of a planet that is about the same size as Earth has provided the sense that the discovery of a [...]... Read more »

  • September 10, 2010
  • 12:07 AM

Paper: Detection of a "Superbolide" on Jupiter

by Jason Perry in The Gish Bar Times

A paper was published today online in the Astrophysical Journal Letters on the June 3 fireball on Jupiter.  The impact produced a bright flash that was seen all the way from Earth by two amateur astronomers: Christopher Go in Cebu, Philippines and Anthony Wesley in Murrumbateman, Australia.  We discussed the impact at the time as not one but two detections of this impact were confirmed.  This new paper is titled, "First Earth-based Detection of a Superbolide on Jupiter," by Ricar........ Read more »

R. Hueso, A. Wesley, C. Go, S. Perez-Hoyos, M. H. Wong, L. N. Fletcher, A. Sanchez-Lavega, M. B. E. Boslough, I. de Pater, G. S. Orton.... (2010) First Earth-based Detection of a Superbolide on Jupiter. The Astrophysical Journal Letters, 721(2). info:/10.1088/2041-8205/721/2/L129

  • August 30, 2010
  • 07:26 AM

when a few million years don’t mean much…

by Greg Fish in weird things

Oh those scientists with their constant corrections. Slightly more than a century ago, they said our planet and the entire solar system was a few hundred million years old, then they said it was 4.56 billion years old after fiddling around with radioactive isotopes in asteroids and meteors. Now, they’re changing the age of the [...]... Read more »

  • August 10, 2010
  • 09:31 AM

Amateur Impact Hypothesis Makes It Into Major Archaeology Journal

by Martin Rundkvist in Aardvarchaeology

Shortly after my buddy Jeff Medkeff died in 2008, a joint book review of ours was published in Skeptic Magazine. Here we criticised a book by Alan Bond and Mark Hempsell, two aeronautics engineers, where they claimed that a 7th century BC cuneiform tablet from Mesopotamia described an asteroid striking the Austrian Alps in 3123 BC. Their argument was in our opinion extremely speculative or pseudoscientific, regardless of whether you saw it from an astronomical, geological or archaeological poin........ Read more »

Barbara Rappenglück, Michael A. Rappenglück, Kord Ernstson, Werner Mayer, Andreas Neumair, Dirk Sudhaus, & Ioannis Liritzis. (2010) The fall of Phaethon: a Greco-Roman geomyth preserves the memory of a meteorite impact in Bavaria (south-east Germany). Antiquity, 428-439. info:/

  • August 4, 2010
  • 12:48 PM

The Search for Earth-Like Planets

by agoldstein in WiSci

“Are we alone in the universe?”
From Copernicus to Galileo to Tombaugh, scientists have spent lifetimes attempting to answer this question. Planetary size, distance, and relation to the stars they orbit have presented continuous obstacles. In recent years, however, astronomers, physicists, and engineers have developed increasingly sophisticated methods and instruments that are enabling progress on the hunt for planets that might—or might not—be capable of sustaining life........ Read more »

  • June 25, 2010
  • 08:42 PM

Night of the Living Dead Stars

by Professor Astronomy in Professor Astronomy

Image Credit: NASA / Spitzer / JPL-Caltech

White dwarfs, the slowly cooling remains of stars that have completed their life cycles, often seem to be the zombies of the night sky, devouring anything that happens to stray within their grasp.  In an article that will be appearing in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal, astronomers Patrick Dufour, Mukremin Kilic and collaborators discuss a recently-discovered white dwarf that seems to have devoured a dwarf planet.  Its name:&........ Read more »

P. Dufour, M. Kilic, G. Fontaine, P. Bergeron, F. -R. Lachapelle, S. J. Kleinman, & S. K. Leggett. (2010) The Discovery of the Most Metal-Rich White Dwarf: Composition of a Tidally Disrupted Extrasolar Dwarf Planet. The Astrophysical Journal. arXiv: 1006.3710v1

  • June 9, 2010
  • 05:01 AM

the media finds life on titan. sort of…

by Greg Fish in weird things

Around the web, headlines are buzzing about alleged evidence for life on Saturn’s biggest moon Titan, citing a paper which noted a suspicious lack of hydrogen build-up in the lower atmosphere and listing among many a mundane explanation, the possibility of methane-based life. Now, while on this blog I discussed that it’s not impossible to [...]... Read more »

  • March 4, 2010
  • 04:44 AM

cold? what cold? it’s the uv rays that’ll kill you

by Greg Fish in weird things

It’s not that Mars is hostile to life as we know it, it’s just that even the toughest terrestrial microorganisms able to survive a big gamma ray burst from a nearby nuclear reactor die within ten minutes of exposure to a close simulation to the conditions on the red planet’s surface. That seems to be [...]... Read more »

Giuseppe Galletta; Giulio Bertoloni; Maurizio D'Alessandro. (2010) Bacterial survival in Martian conditions. Planetary and Space Science . arXiv: 1002.4077v1

  • January 25, 2010
  • 05:20 AM

…..And the rocks melt wi’ the sun

by Niall in we are all in the gutter

Happy Burns Day everybody. While I contemplate my failure to acquire a haggis and some Irn Bru in Honolulu, I thought I may as well find a tenuous link between Burns and astronomy.... Read more »

Schröder, K., & Connon Smith, R. (2008) Distant future of the Sun and Earth revisited. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 386(1), 155-163. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2966.2008.13022.x  

  • January 22, 2010
  • 09:00 AM

the bizarre oceans of the outer solar system

by Greg Fish in weird things

The outer solar system is a strange place. It’s a realm of frozen gas giants surrounded by icy moons and yet, it’s actually home to one of the most promising destinations for alien hunters in the solar system, offering an even more convincing argument for an alien biosphere than Mars to some. We’re talking about [...]... Read more »

Eggert, J., Hicks, D., Celliers, P., Bradley, D., McWilliams, R., Jeanloz, R., Miller, J., Boehly, T., & Collins, G. (2009) Melting temperature of diamond at ultrahigh pressure. Nature Physics, 6(1), 40-43. DOI: 10.1038/nphys1438  

  • January 16, 2010
  • 07:23 PM

The Moon, where the Helium-3 from the Sun is

by The Astronomist in The Astronomist.

Moon is a 2009 science fiction film about astronaut Sam Bell who is the solitary worker on the moon. Sam is at the end of a three-year stint on the Moon so the film begins as if it was the denouement of another quieter story. When an accident occurs Sam suddenly meets himself for the first time.I am adapt at finding flaws in science fiction films, but Moon nails a lot of science as well as could be expected. The most incredulous point about the film for me was the lack of a radio array on the fa........ Read more »

  • January 16, 2010
  • 04:15 AM

The Moon, Where helium-3 from the sun is

by Alexander in The Astronomist.

Moon is a 2009 science fiction film about astronaut Sam Bell who is a solitary miner on the moon. When Helium and fusion was mentioned at the beginning of the film I was delighted that they had based the story on a kernel of science. The energy source they are gathering from the moon is Helium-3. Helium-3 is a light isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron which is suitable as a fusion fuel. I have done some research into the literature to determine just how feasible this 3He min........ Read more »

  • October 13, 2009
  • 03:50 PM

Tuesday picture: Saturn’s largest ring

by Olaf Davis in The Cosmic Web

It’s been a good couple of weeks for Solar System news, it seems. After the recent excitement about traces of water on the Moon, this week a team has published (Verbiscer et al.) their discovery of a new ring around Saturn.
Here’s an artist’s impression of the ring, shown to scale with Saturn and its more [...]... Read more »

Verbiscer AJ, Skrutskie MF, & Hamilton DP. (2009) Saturn's largest ring. Nature. PMID: 19812546  

  • October 8, 2009
  • 10:15 AM

New mega ring around Saturn discovered using Spitzer

by Dave Strickland in Exploding Galaxies and other Catastrophysics

Infrared observations using the Spitzer Space Telescope, published by Verbiscer et al (2009, Nature), have revealed the largest known ring around Saturn, an annulus of very tenuous material extending between 6 million and 18 million kilometers from Saturn, and tilted by 27 degree from the plane of the traditional rings (which only extend out to ~240,000 km).The material in the new ring comes from the battered and cratered moon Phoebe. Of more interest, this new dust ring explains why the leading........ Read more »

Verbiscer, A., Skrutskie, M., & Hamilton, D. (2009) Saturn's largest ring. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature08515  

  • April 24, 2009
  • 04:03 PM

how to find an alien forest

by Greg Fish in weird things

Chirality seems to be a hot topic in astrobiology this month. Just a few weeks ago, astrobiologists at NASA announced that they found a possible explanation as to why the amino acids present in all life forms we know today wind to the left. Now, another team of scientists is taking what we know about [...]... Read more »

Sparks, W., Hough, J., Kolokolova, L., Germer, T., Chen, F., DasSarma, S., DasSarma, P., Robb, F., Manset, N., & Reid, I. (2009) Circular polarization in scattered light as a possible biomarker. Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer. DOI: 10.1016/j.jqsrt.2009.02.028  

  • March 8, 2009
  • 06:56 PM

what makes a planet habitable?

by Greg Fish in weird things

Lately, it seems like almost every popular science show about astronomy absolutely has to talk about the habitable zone concept and marvel at how lucky we are to be in just the right orbit around our parent star. Supposedly, the distance from the Sun is just enough to keep our water liquid and give life [...]... Read more »

David S. Spiegel, Kristen Menou, & Caleb A. Scharf. (2008) Habitable Climates. The Astrophysical Journal, 681(2), 1609-1623. DOI: 10.1086/588089  

  • February 5, 2009
  • 06:22 PM

The MOC “book”: Surface Patterns and Properties

by Ryan in The Martian Chronicles

Welcome to part 2 of our attempt at tackling The Beast. If you missed Part 1, check it out here. We are working our way, slowly but surely, through the monstrous 2001 Mars Orbital Camera paper by Malin and Edgett. This paper summarizes the results from MOC, which revolutionized the scientific community’s view of Mars. [...]... Read more »

M.C. Malin, & K.S. Edgett. (2001) Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera: Interplanetary cruise through primary mission. Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets, 106(10), 23429-23570.

  • January 21, 2009
  • 10:45 PM

Mars Methane: the Paper

by Ryan in The Martian Chronicles

After all the to-do about the confirmation of methane on Mars and its possible implications, I decided that I should take a look at the actual Science article and post a distillation of it here.

The paper that caused this uproar is called “Strong Release of Methane on Mars in Northern

Summer 2003″, by Mumma et al. [...]... Read more »

Michael J. Mumma, Geronimo L. Villanueva, Robert E. Novak, Tilak Hewagama, Boncho P. Bonev, Michael A. DiSanti, Avi M. Mandell, & Michael D. Smith. (2009) Strong Release of Methane on Mars in Northern Summer 2003. Science.

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