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

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.

19 Dec 2014

Spotting a Diamond (?) Planet, Searching for Life

Kepler spotted its first planet since mission planners found a new way to hold the robot observatory steady, earlier this year.

Scientists at the Nordic Optical Telescope didn't discover 55 Cancri e: but they're the first to observe the super-Earth from Earth's surface. The planet is too hot for life: but 55 Cancri f is another matter. I'll get back to that.

Other scientists are fine-tuning how we can search for life in the universe....

...Before getting to 55 Cancri e and the search for life in the universe, I'll be rambling on about billions of planets, Genesis, and the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram. Feel free to skip ahead to Planet-Spotting: Nordic Optical Telescope's 'First.' Or take a coffee break, go for a walk: whatever you feel like....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

14 Nov 2014

"Philae ... Headed for History"

A spacecraft landed on a comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, this week: an historic 'first.'

Back on Earth, scientists at the ALMA radio telescope got the clearest picture yet of planets about to take shape....

...I'm looking forward to what we'll learn from the Rosetta mission's lander and orbiter: how closely its water matches Earth's, and what other substances it carried from the Solar System's borderlands....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

24 Oct 2014

Earth's Wandering Poles, A Comet, a Wobbling Moon

Robot explorers observed a comet as it whizzed past Mars, there's something very odd about a moon of Saturn, and Earth's magnetic field will probably flip much sooner than predicted.

About Earth's magnetic poles switching places: I'm pretty sure we'll notice the event, but it won't be 'apocalyptic.'...

...Earth's magnetic field is weakening a whole lot faster than scientists expected. Our planet's north and south magnetic poles will switch places "soon:" on the geologic time scale.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

30 May 2014

Jadeite from Space; a Moon of Mars; and Kepler's New Mission

A century ago, we didn't realize that mountains fall from the sky at irregular intervals. A century from now, we'll probably be mining asteroids. Today, we're learning that there's much more to learn....

...Knowledge and Dominion


(From ESA/Hubble, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
"Today I would like to highlight another gift of the Holy Spirit: the gift of knowledge. When we speak of knowledge, we immediately think of man's capacity to learn more and more about the reality that surrounds him and to discover the laws that regulate nature and the universe. The knowledge that comes from the Holy Spirit, however, is not limited to human knowledge; it is a special gift, which leads us to grasp, through creation, the greatness and love of God and his profound relationship with every creature...."
(Pope Francis, General Audience. (May 21, 2014))
We live in a beautiful, good, ordered universe: surrounded by wonders which had remained unknown until recent years; and almost certainly many more which we will, in time, discover....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America

25 Apr 2014

The Search for Life: Earth-Size Planet, in the Habitable Zone — Found

Many of this galaxy's 17,000,000,000 or so roughly Earth-size planets are probably too hot or too cold to support life. Last week, scientists found one that is a little cooler than our home: but not by much....
...If we discover life on other planets while I'm still around, I'll be delighted.

From the way folks respond to new ideas, I'm pretty sure that many will share my fascination.
Others, apparently convinced that God wouldn't or couldn't disregard their values and assumptions, will almost certainly denounce reports of extraterrestrial life as a Satanic plot. We've gone through this sort of goofiness with vaccinations and evolution. (February 12, 2014; January 2, 2014)

I hope we find neighbors in the universe: people who aren't human, but share our nature: creatures with intelligence and will, made of spirit and matter. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 311, 362-368.

I think it's very likely that life started on other worlds. Given the size and age of the universe, I'd be surprised if we don't eventually run into people whose ancestors weren't at all like ours. On the other hand, we may be alone in the universe.
(From NASA/JPL-Caltech, used w/o permission.)    More at A Catholic Citizen in America