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Posts Tagged "planets"

@ScientificAmerican

Getting Ready for Scientific American Tweet-Up at the American Museum of Natural History

We’re counting down the days here until the Scientific American tweet-up at the American Museum of Natural History on Wednesday, January 18, starting at 6 p.m. Full details are on my earlier blog post. We’ll enjoy talks, a tour of the “Beyond Planet Earth” exhibition–and some conversations over cocktails. Attendance is free for followers of [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Scientific American Tweet-Up at the American Museum of Natural History

You say you’d love a fun science evening? Great, here’s your chance. Scientific American will be co-hosting a tweet-up and reception in partnership with the American Museum of Natural History the evening of Wednesday, January 18. While we expand our minds, we’ll enjoy some cocktails and open access to the Beyond Planet Earth exhibit. Attendance [...]

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Guest Blog

Habitable and not-so-habitable exoplanets: How the latter can tell us more about our origins than the former

On 29th September this year, astronomers announced the discovery of an exoplanet called Gliese 581 g. This planet, they said, was exactly the right distance from its star for water to exist on its surface, with a good chance that it could hold an atmosphere. These two properties are very important when judging whether a [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Summer Astrobiology Roundup #3: The Ripening Of The Planets

IMG_0349

Although NASA’s planet hunting mission Kepler seems unlikely to return to a fully functioning state, after another reaction wheel failure, it has already yielded an extraordinary crop of new worlds. In fact, as well as finding many remarkable individual systems (from those orbiting binary stars to those laden down with planets), Kepler has provided a [...]

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Life, Unbounded

The Panspermia Paradox

Seed dispersal in the galactic garden? (Image adapted from A. Valavanis)

The notion of panspermia – the transferral of viable organisms between planets, and even between star systems, seems to be getting a bit more attention these days. One only has to open this previous week’s copy of TIME magazine and there it is, via a very nice piece by Jeffrey Kluger on ‘Aliens Among Us‘. [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Venus was Just the Beginning: The Science of Planetary Transits

transit_cartoon.001

Are you sick of reading about the transit of Venus this year? Yes? Me too. But the fact is that when astrophysical objects move between us and something else, like the convenient blaze of a star, there is an extraordinary amount that can be learned. I won’t go far into the delights of a venusian [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Stars Eat Planets

Caution! Do not cross this line... (NASA/ESA, G. Bacon STScI)

“What a deep voice you have,” said the little girl in surprise. “The better to greet you with,” said the wolf. “Goodness, what big eyes you have.” “The better to see you with.” “And what big hands you have!” exclaimed Little Red Riding Hood, stepping over to the bed. “The better to hug you with,” [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Raw Footage From An Alien World

Swinging around, Enceladus against a backdrop of noise and what may be stars (Cassini raw image)

Have you ever wondered what it would really be like for a person to journey to a truly distant and alien place; another planet, even another planetary system? What kind of things would we first see through our windows, or our cameras? What would our sensory experience be in such a distant realm? Would we [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Gravitational Mesolensing And The Hunt For Exoplanets

It's full of lenses...

When astronomers talk about methods for finding exoplanets the list is relatively short. There is the radial velocity, or ‘wobble’ technique, which senses the motion of a star around a common center-of-mass with its planets. There is the transit technique, employed with great success by NASA’s Kepler mission, and there are direct imaging and phase-photometry [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Nomadic Planets May Make Pit Stops

crop_rogue

The notion of what constitutes a typical planetary system has undergone some serious revision in the past twenty years. Our own solar system, once seen as a timeless and almost mechanical entity, is now known to be on the margins of chaos. Long term modeling of its dynamical evolution suggests that orbits of an inner [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Astrobiology: We are the Aliens

Bacterial aliens (NASA)

A funny thing happened recently on the way to Mars. A few days after the successful launch of NASA’s behemoth Curiosity rover with its Mars Science Laboratory instruments on November 26th 2011, a somewhat muted piece of news came out admitting that the strict biological planetary protection rules had not been adhered to quite as [...]

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Life, Unbounded

The Austere Beauty of Other Worlds

Magnificent Saturn, subtle blue and gold tones, while its moon Dione circles in silence (NASA/JPL)

In the northern winter months we are surrounded by the stark beauty of chilled landscapes. From the darkness of the far north, broken perhaps only by starlight and the glow of aurora, to the brisk grey streets of Manhattan and its now skeletal trees with their claw-like limbs and knobbly stubs pressed to the skies, [...]

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Life, Unbounded

You Can’t Always Tell an Exoplanet by its Size

Warning: Exoplanets may appear less massive than they really are (images used: Eysteinn Guðni Guðnason and NASA/Kepler)

Warning: Exoplanets may appear less massive than they really are (images used: Eysteinn Guðni Guðnason and NASA/Kepler) Exoplanets can be confusing things. Recently we’ve seem the announcement of a milestone for NASA’s Kepler mission with the confirmation of a planet in the habitable zone of its Sun-like star. The planet, Kepler 22-b, has a diameter [...]

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Observations

Neptune’s New Moon May Be Named after One of Sea God’s Monstrous Children

Neptune's new moon

This past Monday, the planet Neptune officially got a new moon, a relatively tiny chunk of rock and ice about as wide as Manhattan is long. The object is currently dubbed S/2004 N 1, and it’s the fourteenth now known to circle that distant icy world. Mark Showalter, a researcher at the SETI Institute in [...]

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Observations

See Mercury, Venus and Jupiter in Tightest Night Sky Cluster until 2026

Three planets in alignment

Cicadas aren’t the only scientific rarity expected this month. At the end of May three planets will be visible to the naked eye in one small area of the sky. The planets Mercury, Venus and Jupiter will form “the tightest gathering of three naked-eye planets that the world will see until 2026,” according to the [...]

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Observations

Magnetoastrocoolness: How Cosmic Magnetic Fields Shape Planetary Systems

AUSTIN, Texas—Astrophysicists have a funny attitude toward magnetic fields. You might say they feel both repelled and attracted. Gravitation is assumed to rule the cosmos, so models typically neglect magnetism, which for most researchers is just as well, because the theory of magnetism has a forbidding reputation. The basic equations are simple enough, solving them [...]

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Observations

European astronomers unable to confirm rival team’s potentially habitable planet

Gliese 581 planetary system

Two of the world’s most accomplished teams of exoplanet hunters are at odds over one group’s claimed detection of a world billed as the most habitable planet yet discovered outside the solar system. In question is the existence of Gliese 581g, which a group of American researchers announced in a September 29 teleconference that they [...]

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Observations

Something slammed into the rings of Saturn and Jupiter

PASADENA—This week I’m here at the annual Division for Planetary Sciences meeting. Much as I enjoy Pasadena, it’s rather a comedown from last year’s meeting place in Puerto Rico. Leave aside the natural attractions: even the freeways in Puerto Rico are in better repair than California’s. Then again, we don’t come here for the earthly [...]

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Observations

What do we really know about the Kuiper belt? Fifth dispatch from the annual planets meeting

Kuiper Belt object Quaoar

FAJARDO, Puerto Rico—It smacked of a cunning plan. The organizers of last week’s planets conference put one of the best talks in the very last session of the very last day. Most scientists had either left for the airport or the beach. I almost didn’t make it myself—the room and time got switched at the [...]

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Observations

LCROSS strikes Earth’s moon as other moons continue to puzzle: Fourth dispatch from the annual planets meeting

LCROSS moon impact

FAJARDO, Puerto Rico—"We could have just stayed in bed" was one comment I overheard this morning from planetary scientists who had woken up early to see NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) crash into the lunar surface. At 7:31 A.M. (Eastern Daylight Time) the spacecraft’s Centaur-class rocket booster slammed (deliberately) into the moon, [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Book Review: How I Killed Pluto by Mike Brown

Mike Brown always wanted to discover a planet. On August 25, 2006, Mike Brown killed Pluto. Well, the truth is Pluto had been killed long before, but it wasn’t until August 25 that the International Astronomical Union met, in Prague, to have the official vote. And it wasn’t until August 25 that the press conference [...]

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