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Cosmology: Crisis or Confidence?

What is it with cosmology these days?  On the one hand, astronomers seem more confident than ever.  They speak of this as the era of “precision cosmology,” when the only task remaining seems to be refining the decimal points; e.g., the first refinements of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) won John Mather and George Smoot […]

Binary Asteroid “Formidable Challenge to Theory”

Two asteroids found orbiting each other in the asteroid belt are found to be mere rubble piles.  They are composed of rocks loosely held together by gravity, says an article on Science Daily.  French astronomers measured the rotation of the pair and their density with better accuracy, and modeled how the pair might have split […]

The Hot Moon Epidemic Spreads to the Suburbs

A planetary symptom we might call “Enceladus fever” is apparently an epidemic.  Now, we’ve found that it infects some of the Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) beyond the orbit of Neptune.  More and more small bodies are being found with internal heat that has broken out onto the surface.  This is a big surprise.  Small bodies […]

Is Hardy Life Evidence of an Evolutionary Origin?

Salt-tolerate species of unicellular organisms are found in all three kingdoms of life, says an article on Space.com.  “Astrobiologists, those cross disciplinary scientists dedicated to investigating the broad question of life in the universe,” writes Lisa Chu-Theilbar of the SETI Institute, “often study extremophiles, organisms that live at the edges of what life is known […]

Saturn Still Serving Surprises

The Cassini Spacecraft, three-fourths of the way into its 4-year prime mission, is not running out of new things to see.  Some of the latest discoveries are both awesome and strange. A Hex on the Pole:  As if the south pole of Saturn, with its earth-sized hurricane (picture) were not dramatic enough, the north pole […]

Lunar Dust Is Deadly

A significant fraction of lunar dust could pose deadly risks to future astronauts stationed on the moon, a BBC News report says.  About 1-3% of moon dust particles are too small to be coughed up or removed by the cilia lining the respiratory tract.  These would lodge in the lungs and become inflamed.  As in […]

Did Mars Have a Global Flood?

There’s enough ice under Mars’ southern polar cap to flood the entire planet under 36 feet of water, reports Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  The MARSIS radar instrument on the ESA-NASA Mars Express determined that the ice cap is more than 2 miles thick in places.  According to the report on National Geographic News, traces of possible […]

The Enceladus Problem Heats Up

How can a small icy moon produce hot-water geysers?  That is the Enceladus problem: for a small moon assumed to be 4.5 billion years old to be forcefully gushing out water from its south pole was a great surprise when the Cassini spacecraft first detected the geysers in 2005 (11/28/2005).  Ever since, scientists have been […]

Deconstructing Darwinese:  Delighting in Ignorance

When is ignorance a good thing?  When is confidence in one’s answers a bad thing?  One science writer expressed his desire for mystery over explanation – as long as the mysterious allowed room for lucky breaks without design.     Science writer Ben Shaberman got to share his views on the last page of the […]

Sun as a Star: How Does It Compare?

Not too many years ago, our sun was described as a common, ordinary star.  More recently, the Type G2 Dwarf Main-Sequence class, of which Ol Sol is a member, is believed to comprise only 5% of all stars.  An important paper in Astrophysical Journal is now revealing that the sun is special within its class: […]

Dynamic Solar System Illuminated in Stunning New Images

Images both striking and beautiful continue to arrive on Earth from remote corners of the solar system.  Arriving as streams of binary digits with energies mere quadrillionths of a watt, received by giant radio dishes then amplified and processed, the results are nothing short of amazing.  Here’s a glimpse of what turned up this week: […]

Theories of the Moon: Looney Tunes?

The TV science channels tell it like a matter of fact: our Moon originated from the coalescing debris of a glancing impact with Earth from a Mars-sized object, sometime long ago.  They even have computer animations to show how it all happened.  How reliable is this theory, though?  This month’s Planetary Report from The Planetary […]

Tangled String: Cosmology on the Brink

The February cover of Astronomy Magazine poses an intriguing question: “What if string theory is wrong?”  Maybe you are unfamiliar with string theory.  Writer Sten Odenwald is not talking about violins or balls of string, but about the current leading theory of fundamental physics.  “Superstring theory,” Odenwald explains, “is based on three ideas that remain […]

Evolution Sunday Honors Darwin Over God

An essay by Edna Devore of the SETI Institute on Space.com encourages churches to join in Mike Zimmerman’s “Evolution Sunday” celebrations.  Zimmerman, with his Clergy Letter Project (see also New Scientist), has gotten over 10,000 pastors to sign a statement affirming evolution as an essential part of science and religion (02/11/2006).  Devore thinks this is […]

Enceladus Spray-Paints Its Neighbors’ Yards

Saturn’s moon Enceladus is not only Yellowstone unto itself.  Its shares the National Park experience with its neighbors.  The geyser spray coats nearby moons white like snow.  Space.com and National Geographic are calling this a case of “cosmic graffiti.”  How did scientists catch the tagger?     The original paper in Science describes how on […]
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