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Cassini to Rewrite Textbooks on Saturn

Hundreds of scientists and engineers are waiting with eager anticipation for SOI: Saturn Orbit Insertion, as the schoolbus-sized Cassini spacecraft races for its closest approach to the ringed planet tonight.  Just before closest approach, Cassini will fire its main engine for 96 minutes to slow down the spacecraft and allow Saturn to capture it in […]

ID Book Survives Nature Relatively Unscathed

Considering the intemperate disdain intelligent design books usually receive from the major journals – when they are even noticed (see, for example, Nature’s review of a book by William Dembski in the 07/11/2002 headline) – a new ID book fared surprisingly well this week.  In Nature1 June 24, Douglas A. Vakoch (SETI Institute) reviewed the […]

Comet Surface Wild and Crazy

“Completely unexpected,” was the reaction of Donald Brownlee, principal investigator of the Stardust mission, to the photos revealed by the spacecraft that flew into the tail of Comet Wild-2 last January (see 01/02/2004 headline), reports a University of Washington press release.  The comet mission is the cover story in the June 18 issue of Science, […]

Phoebe Shows Her Dark, Icy Face

Planetary scientists are reveling in the sharp new pictures of Phoebe taken last Friday by the Cassini Spacecraft.  Phoebe is the outermost moon of Saturn, an oddball since it revolves around Saturn in the “wrong” direction at high inclination.  Nine images have been released to the public so far (click here for the gallery).  The […]

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, […]

Cosmos Ages a Billion Years in One Day

Physicists have found that a portion of the carbon-nitrogen-oxygen reaction thought to participate in fusion reactions inside stars runs two times slower than previously thought.  The measurements were made in the Laboratory for Underground Nuclear Astrophysics (LUNA), a lab nearly a mile underground in Italy that offers more protection from cosmic rays.  The ripple effect […]

Red Planet News; Ring World Beckons

Let’s drop in on Mars for the latest findings.  The two Mars Exploration Rovers are still doing splendidly; Spirit has its goal mapped out, a tour of the Columbia Hills where rock outcrops beckon geologists.  It recently crossed the 1.5 mile mark and set a single-day distance record, covering more than a football field with […]

Searchers in the Dark Over Dark Matter

No sooner had Sean Carroll published his essay in Nature1 that dark matter proves how insignificant we are, that Geoff Brumfiel tells us in Nature Science Update that researchers can’t find the stuff.  The Cryogenic Dark Matter Search II is four times more sensitive than previous searches, but came up empty.  Carroll had just reiterated […]

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 […]

SETI Researcher Analyzes Language Mathematically

Space.com had a story April 22 about Dr. Laurance Doyle, who studies non-human communication with information theory.  The article is mostly about his study of whale and dolphin signaling, but mentions how information theory is related to the intelligence of the communicating entities: Doyle’s team uses statistical tools from a field known as “information theory” […]

The Spin on a New Planet

Planetary scientists are “completely baffled” by a new “mysterious” planetoid named Sedna, discovered March 15.  About 70% the diameter of Pluto, it has no moon like Pluto does, but rotates very slowly – somewhere between 20 and 50 days – which would normally imply the presence of a satellite.  Most small bodies rotate in a […]

Arecibo SETI Project Draws a Blank

Project Phoenix, a 10-year project searching for evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence, found nothing, reports the BBC News.  The project used the world’s most powerful radio telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, to scan 800 nearby stars for signals.  Project manager Peter Backus claims the team has learned a lot about searching for ETI, but concludes we […]

Privileged Planet Website Opens

A website featuring a new book by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards, The Privileged Planet, has opened.  The subtitle of the book is How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery.  The authors take issue with pessimistic views, such as those of Steven Weinberg and Carl Sagan, that our planet is “pointless” or […]

Much Ado About Nothing

How much can you say about nothing?  Some people can say quite a lot.  One astrobiologist just wrote a large book about it: Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life by David Grinspoon (Harper Collins, 2003).     Larry R. Nittler reviewed this new book in the March 12 issue of Science.1  Nittler describes […]
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