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Venus Transit Recalls Adventures of Yore
June 5, 2012
Today's transit of Venus, in which our sister planet appears to cross the disk of the sun, will be the last till 2117. As observatories and millions of people watch the rare planetary alignment, few may know the stories of astronomers who predicted them and explorers who risked life and limb to observe them.
Doomed Worlds: Planets Seen Disrupting, Not Forming
May 23, 2012
Much as astrobiologists would like to see the birth of a new planet, the ones we observe seem to be dying, not being born.
Earth's Magnetic Field Less Sustainable than Thought
May 17, 2012
Geophysicists have found that their favored dynamo theory for Earth's magnetic field is less stable than thought, leaving them wondering how our planet sustained its magnetic field for "geologic time."
Saturn Moons Continue to Shine
April 23, 2012
Saturn just passed opposition on April 15, making it a good viewing object from Earth this season. Amateur observers with telescopes may be able to make out the moons Titan, Rhea, Dione, Iapetus, Tethys, and Enceladus. They may look like beautiful little gems from Earth, but from the Cassini spacecraft in orbit at Saturn, they are no less than astonishing. Recent observations of these moons add to the astonishment.
Wernher von Braun Remembered
April 20, 2012
Wernher von Braun (1912-1977) would have turned 100 on March 23. His name is almost synonymous with "rocket scientist" to many. Father of the American space program, including the first American satellite, the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, the moon landings and Skylab, von Braun left an indelible mark on America and the world.
Lunar Upsets Challenge Paradigms
January 27, 2012
Forty years after the last moonwalkers came home, new discoveries about the moon are calling into question what scientists know about our celestial partner. But is it legitimate for scientists to invoke mystery forces when a favored theory faces falsifying evidence?
SETI Finds Intelligent Humans
January 15, 2012
The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is 50 years old this year. SETI’s latest scientific discovery was the detection of a human-made satellite in Earth orbit. In a sense, this counts as a success: the detection of a signal of intelligent origin from an extra-terrestrial source (beyond terra firma). The false alarm helped calibrate the instrumentation, but did little to garner support for the effort to find aliens. The SETI Institute was all SETI-ready to party hardy at the 50th anniversary of Frank Drake’s first search, but instead, found itself struggling to keep its doors open after a severe shortfall of private funds, highlighting questions about the scientific status of the long-shot project.
Tilt-A-World: Another Constraint on Habitability
January 12, 2012
Did you ever ride a Tilt-A-Whirl, one of those cheap carnival rides that makes you dizzy and sick? Our planet would be like that if its inclination were out of control. Without tilt stability, a new study reveals, we wouldn't be sick, we'd be dead, or never alive in the first place. It's not enough to be in the Habitable Zone. Would-be inhabited planets need to avoid a new problem, called “tilt erosion.”