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Astronomy Grab Bag

For year's end, here's a clean-out of astronomy articles—from planetary science to cosmology—to motivate further inquiry.

Venus Transit Recalls Adventures of Yore

Today's transit of Venus, in which our sister planet appears to cross the disk of the sun, will be the last till 2117. As observatories and millions of people watch the rare planetary alignment, few may know the stories of astronomers who predicted them and explorers who risked life and limb to observe them.

Astronomers Wrestle with "Endless Mysteries"

Some of the biggest questions in the universe remain completely baffling to astronomers, a leading journal admitted.

Tilt-A-World: Another Constraint on Habitability

Did you ever ride a Tilt-A-Whirl, one of those cheap carnival rides that makes you dizzy and sick? Our planet would be like that if its inclination were out of control. Without tilt stability, a new study reveals, we wouldn't be sick, we'd be dead, or never alive in the first place. It's not enough to be in the Habitable Zone. Would-be inhabited planets need to avoid a new problem, called “tilt erosion.”

Earth’s Twin: What Does “Potentially Habitable” Mean?

The Kepler spacecraft has found dozens of “potentially habitable” planets around other stars, but this week announced one that some news sources are calling “Earth’s twin.”

Science Without an Object: Astrobiology, Alien Science

Can science exist without an observable object? In recent years we have seen serious scientists ponder alternate universes and parallel universes, dark matter, dark energy and other imponderable entities. String theory has yet to rest on observable data, and physicists at CERN are getting worried about not finding the hypothetical Higgs boson. Sooner or later, these theories need to detect their subjects or lose credibility in the science club. Perhaps nowhere else has the disconnect between hype and observation reached the absurd limits of astrobiology and alien science.
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