on Eclipses

Today, a total solar eclipse will pass over the United States, from Oregon to Georgia, cutting a path that will dim the Sun an appreciable amount for everyone in the Continental United States. It’s something that hasn’t happened in 38 years, since an eclipse in 1979. It’s going to be an event shared by an…

on Cassini’s Final Year

On September 15, 2017, Cassini will plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere and be destroyed. It will be a sad day for science, but it’s one that we’ve known would be coming for a long time, and it’s decidedly not an accident.

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 Juno and Orbital Motion

The Juno spacecraft has arrived at Jupiter, settling into orbit on July 4th after a trip of just under four years. Juno’s arrival was a flurry of enormous excitement. It’s the first time we’ve actually visited Jupiter since New Horizons blasted past it in 2007 (after a trip of only one year, but then again, New Horizons…

on TRAPPIST-1

TRAPPIST-1 (also known as 2MASS J23062928-0502285, which handily contains its location on the sky) is about 12 parsecs away, or 39.5 light years. That means it’s one of the closest 500 stars to the Sun, and we now know it has THREE planets. And if that’s not enough, the planets are all in the habitable…

on the Secrets of Pluto

At this point, the New Horizons space probe has uploaded about half the data it took back in July 2015*. Given a few months to mull over the images and other data coming back, planetary scientists have found out a lot about Pluto. And it is WEIRD.

on the Search for Planet Nine (Part 2)

A little over a month ago, Caltech astronomers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown announced new calculations that suggest there IS a ninth planet in the outer solar system. The planet has to be very distant and can’t be very big or hot, otherwise we would have seen it already. Of course, to prove it’s more than just a mathematical curiosity, you need to find it. Now other astronomers are starting to weigh in.

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.