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Habitable Zones Constrained by Tides

The idea of a circumstellar habitable zone – a radial range around a star where an earth-like planet could support life – may be too simplistic.  Science Daily reported that “Tides can render the so-called ‘habitable zone’ around low-mass stars uninhabitable.”  Astronomers at the Astrophysical Institute Potsdam studied the effects of tides on planets around […]

Busted!  Planet-Making Theories Don’t Fit Extrasolar Planets

Famed planet-hunter Geoff Marcy is giving theorists headaches.  The leading theories of planet formation won’t stand up to observations of hundreds of planets we know.  In National Geographic News reporter Richard Lovett lamented, “The more new planets we find, the less we seem to know about how planetary systems are born, according to a leading […]

Titan’s Methane Lakes Shallow, Dynamic

Strange things are happening on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon: lakes are appearing and disappearing.  This can only mean that the lakes are shallow and the liquid hydrocarbons in them are moving around.     Lakes were discovered a few years ago in the northern regions of the Mercury-size moon.  They consist predominantly of methane (CH4) […]

Martian Chronicles

Recent news stories about Mars can be categorized into past, present, and future. Mars past:  How Mars formed is a convoluted story.  That is evident from a report on PhysOrg that might suggest Mars modelers are drinking too much to relieve stress: “‘Marstinis’ could help explain why the red planet is so small.”  Mars seems […]

Planets a-Plenty, but Are They Lively?

The Kepler spacecraft has found over 1,235 planets so far (Space.com), 54 in their star’s habitable zone, and some Earth-size or smaller.  Science media are having a field day reporting the discoveries, portraying them with artist imaginations, licking their chops at the possibility of life in outer space.  What does this mean?     Space.com […]

Scientists Debunk Scientists

What do you know?  We look to science to tell us about reality, but how confident can we be when they keep changing the tune? Undermining cosmology:  Science Daily tells us today that “Cosmology Standard Candle Not So Standard After All.”  Results from the Spitzer Space Telescope show that Cepheid variables shrink as they age, […]

News from Saturn

Amazing discoveries continue to pour in from Cassini, now within its second extended mission since arriving at Saturn in 2004.  The spacecraft is back to nominal operations after a 3-week safing event caused by a single-bit error in the onboard computer (JPL).  The recovery came just in time for another major flyby of Enceladus. Enceladus […]

Dumbing Down the Science Reading Public

In their rush to grab attention-getting headlines, are reporters doing more harm than good?  An essential part of science education is critical thinking.  Some headlines and articles state ideas that far outstrip the meager data on which they are based.  Fingers do the walking:  Science Daily blindly reproduced an audacious claim from the University of […]

Are Saturn Rings Like Galaxies?

Dramatic photos of dynamic processes in Saturn’s rings have been released by the Cassini mission at Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  The photos, taken near Saturn’s equinox last year, show ruffled edges of the B ring made of particles lofted as high as 2 miles above the ring plane, casting long shadows across the rings.  By watching […]

The Blue and Red States of OOL

When it comes to the origin of life (OOL), some scientists color it blue; some color it red.  New Scientist votes for the blue state.  “LIFE may really have been created by a spark, one that came as a bolt from the deep blue.”  Inspired by visions sent from Ryuhei Nakamura at the University of […]

Life: Do Ingredients Imply Emergence?

Science articles continue to push the idea that if water is found somewhere, life is certain to emerge.  Other articles look for so-called “building blocks of life” or “ingredients for life,” implying or even plainly stating that life simply emerges from its parts.  While many have complained that this kind of thinking is as ridiculous […]

Keeping Saturn Old

Keeping a planet like Saturn going for billions of years has been a problem lately, especially when evidences show that what we see today of its rings and moons could not have lasted that long. Ringside gambling:  The rings of Saturn are majestic, colorful, and young-looking.  Their ices are too clean, and the forces acting […]

Probability Life Not Found on Exoplanet: 100%

Headlines are screaming that an earthlike planet in its star’s habitable zone has been found.  Many sources, though, are claiming that life must certainly exist on this planet.  Their hubris stems from the words of Steve Vogt, an astronomy professor at UC Santa Cruz.  “Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever […]

Lunar Complexity Challenges Simple Theories

Tomorrow is “International Observe the Moon Night” according to Space.com, stimulating laypeople and astronomy neophytes to get outdoors to look at the moon with telescopes, binoculars, and the naked eye while the last-quarter moon is in convenient position for evening viewing.  Humans have contemplated the moon for millennia on such evenings and imagined all sorts […]

Many Stars Are Planet Destroyers

A NASA study is being called “Bad news for planet hunters.”  A survey of stars in globular clusters has not turned up the number of planets expected.  Astronomers conclude that stars in these presumably ancient clusters have long since devoured their planets or sent them careening out into oblivion.     The leading popular science […]
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