Let’s drive across country, Dad said. It will be fun, Dad said. Two days in you’re squirming in your seat and your siblings are driving you nuts. A week-long road trip is bad enough, but imagine taking a trip for 18 months. That’s how long a round-trip mission to Mars could take. The challenge of making such a mission succeed isn’t just about engineering, it’s also about psychology. Read more
Now that New Horizons has zipped past Pluto, it’s main mission is to gradually transmit back all the data it gathered during the flyby. We’ve already learned some amazing things from the mission, and we’re certain to learn more as the rest of the data reaches us. But not content with just one flyby, the New Horizons team has another target in their sights. Read more
You’ve just committed the perfect crime. No one saw you do the crime, and you left no trace. The perfect crime. The only way anyone could prove you did it is by finding the journal of your master plan. Get rid of the journal, and you are scot free. You want to be absolutely, 100% certain that the information it contains is permanently destroyed. Suppose you toss your journal into a black hole. Would that destroy all traces of your plan? Read more
“So what do you do for a living?” I always cringe a bit when that question comes up among strangers, because when I reveal that I’m an astrophysics professor the response is almost always the same. “Um…wow…. You must be really smart!” Read more
A century ago, we didn’t know the size of the universe. We didn’t even know the size of our galaxy. Read more
It was in the twilight of summer, when the trees begin to whisper of autumn. The wheat field outside my family’s house had been harvested a couple of days before, and the night sky was crystal clear. With blanket in hand, I trekked out to the middle of the field to look at the stars.
Orion is one of the more famous constellations, with its three belt stars, bright red-giant star Betelgeuse. When we observe Orion with the naked eye, we can see the bright Orion nebula (also known as M42) as a fuzzy patch within the sword of Orion. But the nebula we see is only the brightest region of a nebula that spans nearly the entire constellation, known as the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. Read more
Neutrinos are being detected from outer space, and that’s kind of a big deal. Read more