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Looking At The Void

In Black Holes by Brian Koberlein2 Comments

Astronomers have never observed a black hole directly. We know they exist. We can see the powerful jets produced by active supermassive black holes. We can see stars orbiting the black hole in the center of the Milky Way. We can also observe the gravitational waves produced when two black holes merge. What we haven’t observed is the region just outside a black hole’s event horizon. But the Event Horizon Telescope is now trying to do just that. Read More

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Crowdsourced Science Finds Four Candidates For Planet 9

In Solar System by Brian Koberlein0 Comments

Ever since Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet, there have been eight known planets in our solar system. We have found countless smaller bodies, and even several Pluto-like bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune, but nothing that would meet the criteria of being a planet. But recently there has been indirect evidence of a Uranus-sized planet lurking on the outer edge of our solar system, one that just might be lurking in the astronomical data we’ve gathered. Read More

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Live Fast, Die Young

In Galaxies by Brian Koberlein1 Comment

The evolution of a galaxy is driven by star formation. Typically a galaxy will enter a period of active star formation in its youth, and then star formation will gradually taper off as the amount of available gas and dust decreases. Since bright blue stars live much shorter lives than small red ones, over time an aging galaxy becomes less active and more populated by red stars. But sometimes this can happen quite quickly, and a recently discovered galaxy demonstrates just how quickly.Read More

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Grand Finale

In Solar System by Brian Koberlein0 Comments

More than a decade ago the Cassini probe entered orbit around Saturn. It was a risky mission. We had never orbited such a distant planet, which meant there was plenty to go wrong. Cassini also carries a companion probe, known as Huygens, which had a mission to land on Titan. Cassini has been a remarkable success, and has given us an unprecedented view of Saturn and its moons. But now the aging spacecraft is running out of power, so it’s time for Cassini to have one last mission. Read More

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Legends Of The Cold

In History by Brian Koberlein6 Comments

From 1645 to 1715 the Sun entered an extended quiet period known as the Maunder minimum. During that time there was almost no observed sunspot activity on the Sun. It was also a period of abnormally cold winters in Europe, known as the Little Ice Age. A similar, but smaller period of solar quiet from 1796 to 1820 (known as the Dalton solar minimum) correlates to the period of Charles Dickens’ childhood, whose books engrained the idea of a “White Christmas” in English society. These events support the idea that sunspot activity could have an effect on global temperatures. But a new look at the Little Ice Age finds that the connection isn’t quite so clear. Read More

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Millions In Motion

In Astronomy by Brian Koberlein0 Comments

Our Sun is adrift among the stars. As our home star moves through the galaxy, so to do the other stars. This means that the apparent positions of the stars change over time. Because of the great distances of stars this shift is minuscule and difficult to measure. For years we have only been able to measure the motion of a few close stars. But that’s beginning to change. Read More

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Hello, Rock!

In Meteors by Brian Koberlein1 Comment

One of the questions I’m asked from time to time is whether a funny looking rock someone found is a meteorite. The short answer is no, since meteorites are extremely rare. The not-so-short answer is that it probably isn’t a meteorite, but there are some basic tests you can do yourself. Read More