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 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 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 Gaia

Our knowledge of where things are in space is going to be changed forever. Over the summer, the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission is going to release its first data, and with it, distances to two million stars. Eventually, once the full mission is complete, there will be distances to somewhere between one and three BILLION stars. This is…

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 Second-Wave Planets

By “second-wave planets” I mean a planet forming long after the protoplanetary phase of the star system (it’s not the technical term, and I’m not even entirely sure there IS one). Can that happen? It’s entirely possible, and astronomers may have now seen evidence of that.

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 visible light from a Black Hole

Astronomers from Kyoto University in Japan have made an announcement that’s being reported as “Visible Light from a Black Hole Spotted by Telescope, a First” and “How to spot a black hole from your back garden: Researchers say astronomical phenomena CAN be seen using visible light”. But black holes are supposed to be black. They…

on the Closest “Habitable” Exoplanet

This week, an planet orbiting Wolf 1061 (aka GJ 628, aka LHS 419, aka HIP 80824, aka a bazillion other names because astronomers are like that) was announced. The planet Wolf 1061c is notable for three important reasons. It’s potentially only 4.25 Earth masses, and is therefore likely to be a rocky world. It’s found…