on the objects orbiting KIC 8462852 and the things they might be (part 4)

KIC 8462852 (or Tabby’s Star), the “most mysterious star in the Galaxy” is just becoming visible in the dawn sky after spending October-early May behind the Sun, and astronomical observations are starting up again as it becomes available to telescopes. With them comes a new opportunity to get involved in the study of this fascinating object.

on the Status of JWST

The James Webb Space Telescope isn’t actually complete yet, but its mirror is now together. As has been stressed repeatedly in places like Twitter, this sight isn’t an unfamiliar one, but this time it’s not a model or a computer animation… it’s the real thing. And that means the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is…

on the objects orbiting KIC 8462852 and the things they might be (Part 3)

The mystery of KIC 8462852 (or Tabby’s Star), the Kepler star with unusual structures apparently in orbit discovered by Yale’s Tabetha Boyajian, continues… I’ve covered it twice before, but practically every day a new paper appears on the astronomical preprint server examining one aspect of Tabby’s Star or another, all with the same intent: figure…

on Protostellar Disks

My wife made me this new quilt for the door of my office: It’s a star called DG Tau B, and she made an incredible likeness. But what, exactly, are we looking at here? If you’d like to know more about how the quilt was made, take a look at my wife’s blog. Read on…

It’s the Same Sky Everywhere

One of the most remarkable things about astronomy is that it’s all the same sky, everywhere. The night sky you see is the same night sky that the most massive telescopes in the world see. For instance, here’s a picture of Jupiter I took with my DSLR in my apartment. This is a product of…

On Nearby Young Stars

Young stars should, the theory goes, be found close to the place of their birth, in star forming regions – giant dark clouds of dense gas (dense compared to the vacuum of space, anyway). The closest of those are 400-500 light years away, and all lie in a particular band on the sky called “Gould’s…

in which I watch a supernova explode

The Crab Nebula was a supernova that exploded in 1054. It is, in a manner of speaking, still exploding today. Don’t believe me? Voila! The animated .gif above shows two composite images – one from the Palomar Optical Sky Survey I, the other from the imaginatively named Palomar Optical Sky Survey II, which have both…

on Alternative Writing Implements

Ever considered owning a fountain pen? In my mind (and my wife’s) fountain pens were those fancy super-expensive hard-to-use pens that rich snobs and characters from Victorian period dramas use to write elegant notes in perfect penmanship. They’re not for anyone who makes less than six figures, owns only one car, or isn’t devoting their…

on WriteLaTeX

(this post originally appeared in a slightly different form on bdnyc.org) We all love Google Docs. It’s a functional and convenient way to share and collaboratively edit documents across platforms, time zones, and even continents. We in the BDNYC group use it extensively. But what if you want to write a scientific paper? Google Docs,…

on Red Brown Dwarfs

Brown dwarfs are very small and dim objects made of hydrogen and helium. Often considered failed stars (or highly successful planets), they’re a bridge between stars (which fuse hydrogen into helium) and gas giant planets like Jupiter (which don’t).

in which I use science in my daily life

The wifely one and I are roughly the same height.  Aside from making our cycling tours more flexible, it also brings up some questions: If people change height during the course of the day, are there any points in time where she is taller than I am?  After some rounds of “I don’t think so”…

In which I explain Kirchoff’s Laws of Spectroscopy

Kirchoff’s Laws are the laws that govern the behaviors of light passing through a gas.  They explain the behavior of the spectra of stars, require a basic understanding of quantum mechanics.  The powerpoint explains it with examples. 1.) A heated solid object produces a continuous (blackbody) spectrum. This governs everything from stars to light bulb…