on the Proxima Centauri planet

According to ESO’s latest press release, there is indeed a small slightly-larger-than-Earth-mass planet (1.3 earth masses) in orbit of the closest star to the solar system, Proxima Centauri. It’s even close enough to the star that liquid water could exist on the surface. That’s mighty close indeed – the year is only 11 days long!…

on the Proposed Planet orbiting Proxima

Recent news has announced with breathtaking excitement that astronomers have discovered a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri!  Or, rather, the information has leaked, and hasn’t yet been officially released, and lots of disgruntled scientists (like me) are wishing things had gone a bit differently. Why? Well, it’s common these days for research to get around (and…

on the supposed Warp Drive

When people find out I’m an astronomer, one of the first questions I’m usually asked is if I want to be an astronaut. I always say no, because human spaceflight has been stuck in Low Earth Orbit since before I was born. I don’t want that; I want to go to distant worlds hundreds of…

concerning the End of Science

Is this the end of Science? That is what one scientist connected with CERN was saying in a TED talk in December. Your knee-jerk reaction (and Bettridge’s Law of Headlines) says the answer should be a confused “no”. In reality, the headline is certainly overblown, but the problem being highlighted is a real one.

concerning the uniqueness of Earth

Is Earth totally unique? Perhaps it is, as reported by a recent study covered in a few places.

This would be kind of sad, in a way. No aliens to meet, and no other planets like the Earth… an awful waste of space, as Carl Sagan called it. It’s also an odd idea, philosophically, because for hundreds of years astronomers have considered the Earth as nothing particularly special (the “Copernican Principle” from the Mic.com article). This idea has been backed up by discoveries that the laws of physics and the laws of chemistry are the same everywhere in the universe… If that’s true, there should be nothing preventing the processes that formed the Earth from happening somewhere else.

on Gravitational Waves

Light waves are a fundamental way we interact with and understand the universe. It’s what our eyes see, and it was the first thing we saw through a telescope. In fact, when it comes to astronomy, light waves (whether gamma rays, X-rays, UV, optical, infrared or radio) are basically the ONLY way we can detect…

on what’s going on with Astronomy

  In the past four months, four high profile cases of sexual harassment in astronomy have come to light, prompting such headlines as “Astronomy’s snowballing sexual harassment scandal picks up even more cases”, “Astronomy’s sexual harassment problem gets Congressional attention” and “Astronomers Are Finally Doing Something About Sexual Harassment” and (with a thesis very similar…

on alpha Centauri

2015 (October 12, to be exact) marks the hundredth anniversary of the discovery of Proxima Centauri by the Scottish astronomer Robert Thorburn Ayton Innes, the director of the Union Observatory in Johannesburg, South Africa. Proxima was quickly recognized to be the smallest member of the alpha Centauri star system, and is now known to be…

on the Kepler KIC 8462852 objects and things they might be (Part 2)

Back when I first posted about the star KIC 8463852*, the star many news sources decreed was hosting alien megastructures, I said that further work would need to be done to figure out just what those objects are.  Well, those studies are already coming in. The first two published follow-up studies make for an interesting…

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 the Myth of the Talented Jerk

You see it all the time, particularly on TV – the computer programmer who is arrogant/politically incorrect/amoral enough to be a royal pain to work with, but is just so good at their job that everyone has to just deal with them anyway. As outlined in an article recounting a PyCon 2015 talk by Jacob…