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. Advertisements

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…

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.

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 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 the Saga of Planet Nine

  The story of the new ninth planet in the Solar System is quite possibly the most exciting stories to come out of solar system astronomy in quite a long time.  Largely because it suggests that the solar system is still a kind of wild west, full of the strange and the unknown, and we…

What is NASA’s budget really?

Just before Christmas, Congress announced a new budget… with an unexpectedly large budget for NASA of $19.3 billion dollars, higher than the $18.5 billion Obama was requesting earlier last year. This is a large bonus*, given that it allows NASA to maintain and expand funding for a few of the big projects it’s working on….

on Vertical Landing

One of the most iconic sci-fi images is the gleaming rocket landing vertically, at which point our intrepid heroes step out onto that brave new world and… well, probably get shot at by the natives. It’s in Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, it’s in The Adventures of Tintin: Destination Moon/Explorers on the Moon; it’s in The…

in which Pluto is revealed

This is Pluto: The “Heart” region of Pluto, from the 8 AM press conference (but, due to light travel time delay, taken more than 4 and a half hours earlier) All the textbooks and all the future T-shirts and websites and posters will use these pictures of Pluto. We will never again not know what…

On the first stars

The Big Bang basically produced only Hydrogen and Helium (and the Universe is still full of Hydrogen and Helium), which means the first stars would have solely had Hydrogen and Helium to work with when they formed. These so-called “Population III stars” have been predicted for years, but no one has ever seen evidence of…

On the Exploration of Pluto

We live in exceptionally exciting times with regards to the Solar System. Right now, there are active spacecraft at Mars, Ceres, 67P-Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Saturn, and soon… Pluto. And three of those are the first time we’ve ever really had a good look at those parts of the Solar System. Pluto (and Charon) will be the first…