Archives for April, 2009

The Closest Kuiper Belt Object

Everyone knows the Solar System, right? Sun at the center, followed by the four, rocky inner planets, the asteroid belt, the four outer gas giants with their moons, and then the Kuiper belt. Sometimes Jupiter sends an asteroid headed our way, and sometimes Neptune sends a Kuiper belt object towards us. The ones Neptune sends…

A Beacon from the Invisible Universe

Stars are like everything else in the Universe (to quote E.B. White): we’re born, we live a little while, we die. The thing that people may not realize is this: stars have been doing this since before the Universe was visible! What do I mean by this? Take a look at this nebula, Barnard 68.…

What Wiped Out The Dinosaurs?

For over 100 million years, dinosaurs, and not mammals, were the dominant form of life on Earth. The pinnacle of evolution at the time, dinosaurs filled the niches of being the largest, most differentiated animals — herbivores and carnivores both — on the planet. As you well know from seeing their fossils, they would dwarf…

Weekend Diversion: Take On Me

Do you remember when music videos were brand new things, and ranged from Cartoonish Violence to Eclectic Pleas for Individual Freedom? Well, one of my favorite videos was by the Norwegian band A-Ha, whose surreal, romantic fantasy video for their single Take On Me won me over instantly. I think it holds up pretty well,…

How Could We Affect The Earth?

As many of you have heard, the Earth has been getting warmer, rapidly, since the industrial revolution. And as many of you have also heard, there is, historically, a link between greenhouse gases and temperature here on the Earth. So, with Earth Day just behind us, I thought of a little analogy for the one…

Earth Day from Space

There are many ways to celebrate Earth Day, from sustainability efforts (and check out our new blog, Guilty Planet) to simply appreciating nature. And while this is a beautiful shot of Forest Park right here in Portland, it doesn’t compare — in my eyes — to the perfection of Earth as seen from so far…

The Gliese System: Addendum

In addition to the article I just wrote about the newly discovered planet in the Gliese system, Dynamics of Cats has a great writeup as well. They also have a picture that I didn’t include in my original post, and it’s so good that I’m including it here: Take a look at that. Two of…

Say Hello to my Little Rocky Friend!

One of the holy grails of modern astrophysics is to find a planet orbiting another star that can support life on it. There are all sorts of missions dedicated to searching for habitable worlds. But with one star system, Gliese 581, we may have hit the jackpot. To look at Gliese 581 in the sky,…

The Solar Cycle and Global Warming

The Sun is doing something interesting, and has been for the last few years. As a solar physicist noted last year, there really haven’t been many sunspots lately. Look at 2001 (left) and 2009 (right) for the difference in sunspot activity. But there’s more. In addition to virtually no sunspots, the Sun is having fewer…

What does Torque in a Car do?

You’ve seen it a bunch of times when you’re reading the specs on a new car: the number of foot-pounds of torque that it puts out. Well, the 2009 New York Auto Show just happened, and I was reading the synopsis of a new Mercedes that just came out: 369 foot-pounds of torque, it says.…