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 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 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.

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…

On the Kepler KIC 8462852 objects and things they might be

There’s something strange going on in orbit of the Kepler star KIC 8462852. As has been extensively covered elsewhere, the star suffers from some unusual obscuring sources which do not have ready explanations. Of course, this has excited a great deal of speculation, ranging from everything from the reserved (Mysterious Star Leaves Scientists Wondering What’s…

on Planets Everywhere

A recent study says that habitable zone planets are downright common. This isn’t the first time claims like this have been made. The thing I find most interesting about this study is the way that they did it. Most previous analyses of the number of planets did it by working out how many planets a…

on the Doppler effect

The Doppler effect was discovered by Christian Doppler in 1842, and describes how waves seem to change with motion.  With sound waves, the Doppler effect describes the familiar shift in pitch as a car passes by you (ask any five-year-old the noise a car makes, and you’ll hear the NEEEEOUUUUWWWWW of the Doppler Effect.) With…