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Gas giant 1,000 light years away orbits backwards August 16, 2009

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ExoplanetThe UK’s Wide Area Search for Planets (WASP), has found an exoplanet that orbits it’s parent star in the opposite direction. Click the image for more information on the discovery. Science: Never fails!

Study shows that black holes may litter the Milky Way May 1, 2009

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lores Source Scientific American 60-Second Science Blog

Ryan O’Leary, a graduate student at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), and CfA professor Avi Loeb conducted the research, set to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Hubble Celebrates the International Year of Astronomy with the Galaxy Triplet Arp 274 April 5, 2009

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hs-2009-14-a-web_print This is group of galaxies is the winner of the contest to have people vote on where to point the Hubble Space Telescope. There are three galaxies in this image, and they are over 400 million light years away.
This is a part of the wonderful science education campaign, the International Year of Astronomy.

Kepler: Mission: find extra solar earth-sized planets March 8, 2009

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Kepler

Kepler

 
   Kepler is the most recent satellite telescope launched by NASA, and arguably the most thrilling astronomical instrument ever launched. Kepler was launched on March 6, 2009, and it’s sole purpose is to search for extrasolar earth sized planets. The telescope will be looking in the region of our galaxy near the Cygnus and Lyra constellations, and has the field of view to observe over 100,000 stars that are between 600 and 3,000 light years away.
Over the past decade astronomers have found over 300 extrasolar planets, but most of these are gas giants such as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. But recently these “planet hunters,” have discovered planets somewhat similar to earth, but the smallest planet found so far is double the size of the earth. Now, with the Kepler telescope specifically designed for finding earth-like planets, astronomers are optimistic about the discoveries that lie ahead.
It is very difficult to find planets similar to earth, since rocky planets that could sustain life are so much smaller than the gas giants. Astronomers have to look at a star to see if its gravity is being disturbed by some object, and the three methods used are:
  • the radial velocity method
  • the astrometry method
  • the transit method
  • Here is a site that explains these methods in some detail.

    …”significant belch of methane…” January 16, 2009

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    ..."significant belch of methane..."

    ..."significant belch of methane..."

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    This finding has been all over the news today, but many of the reporters did a lousy job explaining why this, “belch of methane” is important. 

    (The link above is a great article from Scientific American.)

    Information on recent oservations of methane on Mars: