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Planets Can’t Grow Past the Electric Fence

In the artwork, it looks so simple: dust clumps into planets that grow into nice, orbiting solar systems – like ours.  It’s not so simple when you try to nail down the real physics.  Planet-building models have to contend with a host of variables and barriers to growth (accretion).  Another barrier was discussed in Astrophysical […]

Milankovitch Cycles Indistinguishable from Randomness

A claim has often been made by geologists that the rock sediments record cyclical changes in Earth’s orbit.  Milankovitch cycles, named for the man who analyzed them, are a set of regular periodic changes to the orbital eccentricity, obliquity, and axial precession of the Earth over tens and hundreds of thousands of years.  These subtle […]

Building Planets: Can’t Make Them, But Hurry

Constructing planets is a delicate business.  Trying to get tiny bits of dust to join up into balls has never been found to work.  It has to work fast, though, because unless the whole planet clears its dust lane, it will be dragged into the star in short order.  It seems you can’t get there […]

State of the Moon Titan Addressed

Each May, a series of articles on major topics of geological interest, written by leading experts in the field, is published in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences.  This year’s issue includes a treatise on Titan, the large moon of Saturn, written by the two titans of Titan science, Jonathan Lunine and Ralph […]

Mooning the Public: Life Sells

Advertisers have known for a long time that sex sells.  That’s why ads often include a scantily-clad woman standing next to the pickup truck for sale.  It seems that in planetary science, life sells.  An icy moon can be a pretty dull thing, but announce that there might be life there, and eye appeal jumps.  […]

From Dust to St. Patrick in 5 Billion Years Flat

Biblical creationists and evolutionists have one belief in common: we came originally from dust.  How that dust became organized is the difference.  Both views teach that our bodies are comprised of the same atoms found in dust, but creationists say an intelligent designer purposefully molded the dust into a fully-formed man and woman, whereas evolutionists […]

Kepler On the Way to Search for Earth-Size Planets

The long-awaited launch of the planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft was successful Friday night, announced the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  Named for the 17th-century German astronomer-mathematician Johannes Kepler, the spacecraft will stare at 100,000 stars for over three years, looking for variations in their light that indicate the presence of planets.  Follow-up studies may determine if some of […]

Are You Cereous?  Life Came from an Asteroid?

Ceres is an icy asteroid way out in space that has a lot of ice.  The DAWN spacecraft is heading there.  When it arrives in 2015, maybe it will find out if a substantial part of the water is in liquid state under an ice crust.  Say the word water, and some think… life.   […]

Titan Methane Age Still a Problem

“Our new map provides more coverage of Titan’s poles, but even if all of the features we see there were filled with liquid methane, there’s still not enough to sustain the atmosphere for more than 10 million years.”  So said Elizabeth Turtle, lead author of a paper in Geophysical Research Letters,1 in an article on […]

The Moon Has Core Values

Did the moon have a molten core?  There has been “a long-held consensus that objects in the solar system smaller than than [sic] Mars, can’t sustain magnetic fields,” said National Geographic News based on a paper in Science January 16.1  Apollo rock samples seem to indicate the presence of long-lived magnetism.  It suggests a molten […]

Time for Mars Life Again

Methane detection around Mars is giving new life to claims there is life on Mars.  Space.com #1 and Space.com #2 explain why NASA scientists are looking to see if the methane can be explained geologically or biologically.  Some news sites, like The Sun, go over the top with claims life has been discovered.  Only the […]

This Day in History: Genesis from the Moon

Forty years ago this day, Christmas Eve, a riotous and troubled world stopped in its tracks and held its breath.  The crew of Apollo 8, which had blasted off 3 days earlier in the new behemoth rocket Saturn V, masterminded by rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun, had reached orbit around the moon, and was about […]

Dream On, Astrobiology

An astrobiologist at Open University (UK) has classified habitable worlds into four types, even though only one of them is known to have life.  Astrobiology Magazine reported the list by Jan Hendrik Bredeh?ft: earth-like, Mars-like, Venus-like and water-worlds.  After considering all the facts, Bredeh?ft says our best bet to find extraterrestrial ecosystems is to hunt […]

Cassini Celebrates Season of Change

It’s approaching equinox on Saturn.  Cassini is now well into its first extended mission, aptly dubbed the Equinox Mission, till Sept. 2010.  The Cassini Team just exhibited its snazzy new website.  It’s not all bells and whistles.  The science is ringing the phones off the hook.  Even without the pictures the following announcements could stop […]

Applying the Scientific Method to Prehistory

What could be more scientific than the scientific method?  A scientist observes an unexplained phenomenon.  He or she gathers data, analyzes it, proposes a hypothesis to explain it, and tests it.  The results are published in a peer-reviewed journal.  Mission accomplished, right?  Here are two papers on very different phenomena – one dealing with the […]
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