Hey, June

1 June 2021

We’ve entered late Spring in the northern hemisphere, and that means I’ve been able to spend more time outside. It also means slightly fewer posts than in the past couple of months. Still, there have been plenty of new discoveries.

Do the Wave

Gravitational-wave astronomy continues to mature, with studies moving beyond the black hole mergers seen by Virgo and LIGO. For example, a team recently looked for gravitational waves in data from the Gaia spacecraft. Gaia isn’t a gravitational wave telescope, but it has measured the position of more than 400,000 quasars. If gravitational waves happen to pass through our corner of the universe, they could shift the apparent position of these quasars. They haven’t found gravitational waves yet, but it’s an interesting new approach.

Another study is trying to solve the question of whether gravity can lens gravitational waves. We’ve long observed that light can be gravitationally lensed near large masses, but are gravitational waves also lensed? General relativity says yes, but the effect is yet to be observed.

Hot Stuff

Dark matter could be warming up regular matter. A study in Physical Review Letters shows that some hypothetical forms of dark matter could make brown dwarfs warmer than we expect. If the idea is true, we should be able to prove it when the Webb Space Telescope is launched later this year.

Large stars might also stay warmer longer. A study of 26 B-type giant stars shows that they pulse at a rate of hours or days. This seems to be due to the mixing of hydrogen and other elements in their cores, which could help them fuse hydrogen.

In other hot news, work at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider is helping us understand the matter in the earliest moments of the big bang when the cosmos was filled with a quark-gluon plasma. Interestingly, this material seems to behave more like water than like a gas.

Among Us

The search for aliens continues to be a hot topic. Breakthrough Listen surveyed the central region of our galaxy, which is dense with stars. They didn’t find an alien signal, but that’s not surprising. We know that the center of our galaxy would be pretty hostile to terrestrial life.

But there is hope. Another study looked at how a constellation of communication satellites such as the SpaceX Starlink project could be observable across light-years. If aliens have a network of communication satellites, we might be able to find them. Or aliens might detect Starlink in the next few decades.

Be Seeing You

On the engineering front, a study of CubeSats has shown how they might provide real-time observations of Earth. These small satellites are only 10 centimeters wide and are incredibly cheap to launch. If they can carry small telescopes, we might have a fleet of cheap observatories that are always watching us here on Earth.


Finally, I wrote a couple of fun posts about the writing process. When it comes to writing fiction, are you a plotter or a pantser? Also, what’s up with the size of writing paper in America?

That’s it for this month. While you enjoy your summer, I’ll get back to writing, so there will be plenty more stories to come.