Showing posts with label astronomy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label astronomy. Show all posts

30 Jun 2017

Exoplanet Frontier

We wouldn't expect to find life on 51 Eridani b, even if were the size of Earth and at the right distance from its star.

The planet is only a bit over 20,000,000 years old.

At that point in our home's long story, the earliest critters wouldn't appear for at least another several million years.

We've discovered thousands of new worlds so far, some a bit like Earth, most not; and many not like anything in our Solar System.

Scientists are starting to make sense of what's being found, and discovering that we have a very great deal left to learn.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

2 Jun 2017

New Worlds: The Search Continues

There's a huge telescope under construction in Chile: the E-ELT. When compete, astronomers using it plan plan on looking for new worlds, and observing the early universe.

We may have spotted a second super-Saturn. We'll know more about that in September....

...Telescopes have come a long way since Galileo repurposed the "Dutch perspective glass" for astronomical observation.

About Galileo, Copernicus, the sun, and the Church: it's true....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

23 Apr 2017

Looking for Life: Enceladus and Gliese 1132 b

We haven't found life on — or in — Enceladus. But we've found organic compounds in the Saturnian moon's salt-water geysers.

Scientists detected an atmosphere around Gliese 1132 b, a planet about 39 light-years away. It's Earth-like, in terms of size; but too hot for life as we know it. We'll almost certainly learn a great deal, though, by studying its atmosphere....

...Abraham, Moses, and Minnesota


I take the Bible, Sacred Scripture, very seriously. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 101-133)

I don't, however, insist on believing only what I find in the Bible. That's just as well, since I live near the center of North America.

I'm pretty sure that Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Saint Peter, and the rest, didn't know that the land I live on exists. But I'm quite sure that the State of Minnesota is real: even if it's not "Biblical."...

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

24 Mar 2017

Baryons, Gravity Waves

These are exciting, or disquieting, times.

Which it is depends partly on how much a person likes living in a world where scientific knowledge is rapidly changing.

I like it, a lot....

...Since this is a "religious" blog, I'll be discussing — briefly, for me — how my faith relates to experiments using CERN's Large Hadron Collider and science in general....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

3 Mar 2017

TRAPPIST-1: Water? Life??

TRAPPIST-1's planets may support life: or not. We don't know. Not yet.

We're pretty sure that all seven are rocky worlds, like the Solar System's inner planets.

Three are in the star's habitable zone. The inner two definitely do not have one sort of atmosphere that would make life as we know it impossible.

Even if we don't find life there, we'll learn a great deal while looking.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

17 Feb 2017

Pollution: Still Learning

Scientists found PCBs and PBDEs in deep-sea critters, armyworms are on the march in Africa, and Mexico City's air isn't as clean as we'd hoped.

Rational concern seems reasonable....

...Last week I talked about blaming our tools for our mistakes. (February 10, 2017)

This week I'll revisit Lovecraft's "placid island of ignorance,"sort of....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

8 Jan 2017

Epiphany Sunday



Statues1 of Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar started near the clock in our living room. I took those pictures of them on Wednesday. Their trip to the nativity scene ended today, Epiphany Sunday.

We read about "magi from the east" in today's Gospel: Matthew 2:1 through 12:
"1 When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, 2 behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem,
"saying, 'Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star 3 at its rising and have come to do him homage.'"
(Matthew 2:1-2)
"Magi" is how μάγοι, mágoi, looks in my native language. That's the Greek version of an Old Persian word that would sound something like "magus" if I tried pronouncing it.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

16 Dec 2016

Mars, Aliens, and SETI



I'd love to be talking about unambiguously artificial signals picked up by the Allen Telescope Array, or reports of a ship from beyond the Solar System settling into orbit around our moon.

But that hasn't happened, and probably won't. Not in my lifetime.

Instead, I'll talk about why I don't "believe in" extraterrestrial life; and do not assume that we are alone in the universe. That puts me in the third of folks who aren't sure, and I'll get back to that.

My 'Friday' posts are usually about more-or-less-current 'science news.' That won't happen this week. I've read a few interesting articles, and will be talking about them — after the Christmas-New Year's gymkhana is over.

This week I'm using material that didn't quite fit into an earlier post. I'll also talk about the Great Moon Hoax, Nicola Tesla and Martians; and what I think about life in the universe.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

11 Dec 2016

Jesus and Expectations



Pip's Christmas doesn't have much to do with Christmas, or Advent, but I figured this post should have something that looks 'seasonal.'

"...Blessed is the One Who Takes No Offense at Me"


We'll be hearing Matthew 11:2-11 this morning. The readings still aren't particularly 'Christmassy.'
"2 When John heard in prison 3 of the works of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him "4 with this question, 'Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?'
"Jesus said to them in reply, 'Go and tell John what you hear and see:
"5 the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. "And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.' "
(Matthew 11:4-6)
Our Lord balanced that rebuke with a reminder of the Baptist's great function in Matthew 11:7-15, and a complaint about folks who wouldn't listen to John or Jesus....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

10 Dec 2016

Tides and Our Moon’s Origin

Scientists have been wondering how our moon formed, and why its orbit isn't over Earth's equator.

It looks like our moon formed after something about the size of Mars hit Earth, roughly 4,500,000,000 years back.

But the giant-impact hypothesis didn't explain why our moon orbits Earth only five degrees away from Earth's orbital plane. The math had said that our moon would be orbiting pretty much over Earth's equator....

...God is Large and In Charge


I occasionally wonder if I should keep explaining why reality doesn't offend me, and why facts don’t threaten my faith....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

2 Dec 2016

KIC 8462852 and Strange Stars

KIC 8462852, Tabby's Star, has been in the news recently. Scientists are pretty sure that something very large orbits the star, but haven't worked out what it is.

A few scientists, looking at the data, say that it's probably a really odd natural phenomenon: but that it might something built by folks who aren't human.

SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is still a science in search of a subject. But quite a few scientists are taking it seriously, which is why Berkeley SETI Research Center added few stars to the Automated Planet Finder's observing queue....

...What I say about SETI and science in general may take some explaining, if you're new to this blog. Basically, I think God is large and in charge; and that part of my job is appreciating God's work — not telling the Almighty how it should have been made...."

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

4 Nov 2016

Near-Earth Asteroids

Scientists spotted 2016 UR36 days before it passed by Earth. "Killer asteroids" headlines notwithstanding, we knew it would miss our planet by a comfortable margin.

Sooner or later, though, something big will hit Earth: again. We still can't prevent that, not yet.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

30 Sep 2016

Europa, Mars, and Someday the Stars

Scientists think they've detected more plumes of water, shooting up from near Europa's south pole. It's early days, but we may have found a comparatively easy way to collect samples from the Jovian moon's subsurface ocean.

Stephen Hawking says humanity needs to keep exploring space. I agree, although not quite for the reasons he gave.

SpaceX tested an engine they plan to use on their Mars transport, and Gaia's data seems to have raised as many questions as it answers.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

16 Sep 2016

ESA's Gaia, HD 164695, and SETI

Scientists working with ESA's Gaia space observatory published the first part of a three-dimensional sky map this week. It'll be the most comprehensive all-sky survey done so far.

Not unexpectedly, this year's 'ET calling' headlines gave way to something slightly more down-to-Earth.

We may eventually pick up an artificial signal from the stars: but that burst of radio noise from the direction of HD 164695 was almost certainly due to a clerical error of sorts. It wasn't our first false alarm, and I doubt it will be the last.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

2 Sep 2016

Proxima Centauri b, Looking for Life

Looking for extraterrestrial life is still a science in search of a subject, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to argue that there couldn’t be critters out there.

Today I’ll be talking about the search for life in the universe, a possibly-habitable planet circling the next star over, and a planet that couldn’t possibly be habitable.

Make that not habitable by life as we know it. Life using fluorine and carbon as we do hydrogen and carbon, with sulfur as a water-substitute — is a topic for another post....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

29 Jul 2016

Studying Thousands of New Worlds

Scientists studied the atmospheres of two exoplanets, planets orbiting another star, earlier this year. Both planets are roughly Earth-sized, with atmospheres a bit like the Solar System's terrestrial planets.

Juno arrived at Jupiter last month, and will start its science mission in October.

Finally, scientists found more than a thousand new planets; including more than a hundred Earth-sized ones.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

15 Apr 2016

Starshot, SETI, and the Universe

We may be within a generation of sending probes on flyby missions to other stars, high-energy jets from several distant galaxies all point in the same direction, and we're learning more about hot super-earths.

That sort of thing fascinates me, your experience may vary.

Meanwhile, SETI researchers will be checking out red dwarfs: which may be more promising places to look for neighbors than we thought.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

15 Jan 2016

SETI: Looking for Neighbors

Some scientist think globular clusters aren't good places to look for neighbors.

Others took a fresh look at the data, crunched numbers, and pointed out that parts of globular clusters might be better spots for interstellar civilizations that the boonies where we live.

Meanwhile, someone with a lot more money that I'll ever see decided to spend some of it on a systematic search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

18 Dec 2015

Enceladus and Kepler’s Planets

Scientists following up on Kepler observations learned that a bit over half of the objects tentatively identified as giant planets are brown dwarfs or stars.

We've also learned that Saturn's moon Enceladus has a vast ocean under its icy surface: with all the ingredients needed for life....

...If you've read my 'science' posts before, you know why I think Earth isn't flat; the universe is billions, not thousands, of years old; poetry isn't science; and thinking is not a sin....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

21 Aug 2015

New Worlds: 51 Eridani b, HD 219134b

Scientists are looking, literally, at a newly-discovered exoplanet, 51 Eridani b. It's less than 100 light-years away, about as far from its star as the gas giants in the Solar System: and very young, only around 20,000,000 years old.

Studying 51 Eridani b should help scientists understand how our Solar System formed.

HD 219134b is much closer: a little over 21 light-years away, in the constellation Cassiopeia. It's a rocky world, like Earth; but larger, and blistering hot. It's also the closest transiting exoplanet we've found so far. This is a big deal, at least for scientists who study planets....

...Whether you know why I'm not offended by God's design choices or not, feel free to skip ahead to "An Infant Version of Jupiter"; check out xkcd.com, and/or mainstream comics at gocomics.com; or do something completely different....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Editing Genes, Ethically

Scientists at England's John Innes Centre learned how to grow plants that produce polio vaccine. That sounds like a very good idea, part...