On August 14th 2012 my new book, Gravity's Engines , will launch. I'm enormously excited about this, and over the next couple of months - increasingly so as publication date approaches, Life, Unbounded will carry some posts that talk about the science between the covers...
Lonely Planets of the Cosmos Hot Jupiters are special beasts in the exoplanetary menagerie. These giant worlds orbit their parent stars incredibly tightly, sometimes zipping around in barely a day or two, and so close that they can disturb the stellar atmosphere itself - as well as throwing themselves at the mercy of gravitational tides and scorching radiation.They were also the very first type of exoplanets to be detected around normal, hydrogen-burning, stars like our Sun in 1995...
Tweets In Space (N. Stern and S. Kildall) When the interplanetary missions Pioneer 10 and 11 launched in the late 1970s they each carried a metal plaque engraved with a set of pictorial messages from humanity...
It seems that the Saturnian system just keeps on giving when it comes to amazing imagery. Of course it helps to have a $3 billion space mission in place like Cassini to record everything going on...
The Bug Nebula (NASA, ESA and A.Zijlstra (UMIST, Manchester, UK)) One of the most widely known and repeated astrophysical facts is that stars produce all the heavy elements that eventually make planets, shrubberies, and the likes of us...
Planet, planet, planet.... (Image credit: ESA) Exactly how many planets orbit any given star is still a major unknown in exoplanetary science. The two primary techniques for detecting planets and quantifying their characteristics have significant limitations that blinker us to the full contents of other solar systems...
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," said the wolf."What a big mouth you have," the little girl murmured in a weak voice."The better to eat you with!" growled the wolf...Stars and planets have what might be the most dysfunctional relationship in astrophysics...
An alien world in the raw (see below) 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?...
An interstellar web? (Original image by B. Torrissen) A speculative but intriguing discussion that sometimes crops up when talking to people engaged in exoplanetary science goes like this; let's suppose that we find an unmistakably terrestrial style planet around a relatively nearby star (less than about 30 light years away), perhaps even around one of the Alpha Centauri members, a touch over four light-years distant...
Who's been munching my galaxy? Right now, all across the planet, millions of people are engaged in a struggle with enormous implications for the very nature of life itself.
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