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Great Telescopes Converge on Kepler’s Supernova

The last supernova in our galaxy seen from earth was described October 9, 1604, by Johannes Kepler, a few years before the invention of the telescope.  Now, on the 400th anniversary of that observation, three of NASA’s “Great Observatory” orbiting telescopes – the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope and the Hubble Space […]

Delicate Planet Dance Disturbs Theories

Theorists have been thrown a curve ball with the discovery of a planet orbiting a binary star.  It appears that the gravitational tug on a hypothetical dust disk would have prevented the possibility of a planet forming around one of its members, but Gamma-Cephei has one.  “The formation of a planet in a binary star […]

Multispectral Galaxy Studies Contradict Theories

The latest issue of Caltech’s magazine Engineering and Science1 has beautiful pictures of galaxies taken in ultraviolet by the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX), and in the infrared by Hubble’s sister, the Spitzer Space Telescope.  Combining images of the same galaxy in visible, ultraviolet and infrared is helping astronomers figure out their structure, and as D. […]

Solar Systems Defy Theories

Stuart Ross Taylor (Australian National University, Canberra) feels left behind.  The astronomers have their nice, neat H-R diagrams to explain stars, but no such diagram exists for planetary scientists.  Our hodgepodge collection of planets, moons and small bodies defies classification, to say nothing of the extrasolar planets that have been discovered so far, mostly in […]

Infant Cosmos Was Already Elderly

At first, they weren’t sure it was real or they were just seeing things.  Now, it’s inescapable.  As far back as cosmologists can see, there were already mature galaxies.  That’s the thrust of two papers in the July 8 issue of Nature1,2 and a commentary on them by Keck Observatory astronomer Greg Wirth3, who says […]

Tau Ceti a Star for Life to Avoid

Tau Ceti, a star with a dust disk astronomers had hoped might be an example of a planetary system under construction, is more like a war zone.  A press release from the Royal Observatory calls it “Asteroid Alley – an Inhospitable Neighbor.”  Using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii, the astronomers detected 10 times […]

Young Planet Around Young Star Claimed

A star estimated to be one million years old already has a planet in orbit around it, the Spitzer Space Telescope (Hubble’s counterpart for infrared astronomy) has found.  Astrobiology Magazine says this challenges old theories.  Alan Boss (Carnegie Institute) thinks this supports his disk-instability model for planetary formation, in which gas giants can form quickly, […]

Hot Jupiter!  Exoplanets Found Very Close to Stars

Two examples of Jupiter-size planets have been found by the European Southern Observatory.  They are so close to their parent stars, they orbit in less than two earth-days each.  Mercury would be 17 times farther out than one of them.  They belong to a new class of exoplanets scientists are terming “hot Jupiters.” A few […]

Lutherans Helped Copernicus

Every once in awhile, we are confronted to reconsider things we “know” are true, only to find out the truth is closer to the opposite.  The usual spin on Nicolaus Copernicus is that he was a brave scientist who threatened the church with his discovery that the earth orbits the sun, not the sun the […]

Hubble Deep Field Surpassed: Ultra Deep Field

If you remember the awe of seeing the first Hubble Deep Field image in 1995, check out the new HUDF: Hubble Ultra Deep Field (see also the New Scientist report).  The field of view, just one-tenth the size of the full moon, is a composite of 800 images taken for 11.3 days.  The 1995 image […]

Superstar Challenges Theory

A new record holder has been found for biggest star: LBV 1806-20 in Sagittarius.  According to the NewsNotes entry on p. 20 of the April 2004 issue of Sky and Telescope, the star is up to 3 times hotter than the surface of our sun, and has a diameter 200 times as big.     […]

Should Cosmologists Get Worried Yet?

The unexpected finding of mature galaxies in the early universe (see 01/02/2004) has Robert Irion worried, but he seems surprised the theorists are not.  Reporting on last week’s meeting of the American Astronomical Society in the Jan. 23 issue of Science,1 he titles his article, “Early Galaxies Baffle Observers, But Theorists Shrug.”  He begins: “It’s […]

Globular Cluster Origins: Where Do We Go From Here?

The simple explanation of globular clusters as bundles of ancient stars seems to be in a state of crisis, though the authors of a paper in the Jan. 1 issue of Nature1 try to keep a stiff upper lip.  They begin, “Nearly a century after the true nature of galaxies as distant ‘island universes’ was […]

Reality or Hubris in Scientific Claims?

51; The amount of trust the public puts in scientific claims stems partly from their incomprehensibility.  The claims presented in scientific papers are often so dense and abstruse as to be unapproachable by all but specialists.  Undoubtedly many people trust scientists because of their specialized education, their knowledge of mathematics, their special equipment, and their […]
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