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Naming Day

In Stars by Brian Koberlein

Out of the vast sea of stars in the night sky, a few are special. Not because of their size, or color, or age, but because they have a name. When we name a star, we make it a part of our collective cultural heritage. Their names inspire epic stories, or remind us of our history. Read More

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The Search For Aliens On A Visiting Asteroid

In Radio Astronomy by Brian Koberlein

If an alien civilization wanted to study planet Earth, how might they do it? They could use powerful telescopes to measure the physical characteristics of our planet, or they could listen for signals from our TV and radio broadcasts. These are things we are doing in our search for alien civilizations. But a really advanced alien civilization might try something a bit more ambitious, such as an actual mission to Earth. One way to do this would be to build a probe within an asteroid, and send it on a journey across the stars. The asteroid could shelter the probe during it’s long trip through interstellar space. Once it arrived in our solar system, the probe could gather detailed information about Earth and the solar system. It might even try to communicate with humans by beaming a radio signal in Earth’s direction. Such an alien probe would look a lot like the recently discovered asteroid Oumuamua, which is why the Breakthrough Listen project wants to study it.Read More

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The Black Hole At The Edge Of The Universe

In Black Holes by Brian Koberlein

Within most galaxies there lurks a supermassive black hole. Our own galaxy, for example contains a black hole 4 million times more massive than our Sun. One of the big mysteries of these black holes is just how they formed, and how long it took for them to reach such a massive size. Now a massive black hole at the edge of the observable universe challenges our understanding of them. Read More

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Getting It Wrong And Getting It Right

In Solar System by Brian Koberlein

Water is an essential ingredient for life on Earth. If we want to find life on another world, we look for the presence of liquid water. We know there is liquid water on other worlds, but the question remains whether our planetary sibling, Mars, has liquid water. Read More

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How To Cook A Turkey On Venus

In Solar System by Brian Koberlein

There are countless opinions about how to cook the best turkey. Some suggest slow roasting it for hours, while others prefer cooking at high heat. Some even dare to deep fry it in peanut oil. Of course all of these cooking suggestions are Earth-based, which is a bit limiting. Suppose you wanted to have a Thanksgiving dinner elsewhere in the solar system, such as Venus?Read More

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A Universe Of Antimatter

In Cosmology by Brian Koberlein

Our universe is dominated by matter. Sure, there is dark matter and dark energy, but things like stars, planets and people are made of matter. Protons, electrons, neutrons and such. But matter seems to come in pairs. For every electron created, an antimatter positron is created. For every proton that appears, so does an anti-proton. Since our universe is dominated by matter, what if there is another universe dominated by antimatter? What would an antimatter universe look like? Read More

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Measuring The Universe With Gravitational Waves

In Gravity by Brian Koberlein

Last year astronomers made the first detection of gravitational waves from the merging of two black holes. It gave us an entirely new way to view the cosmos. Now we aren’t limited by the emission and absorption of light by matter. We can explore the universe through ripples in the fabric of spacetime itself. Through recent observations we can study the most mysterious aspect of spacetime, known as dark energy. Read More

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The History Of Einstein’s Most Famous Equation

In History by Brian Koberlein

Albert Einstein is easily one of the most brilliant physicists who ever lived. His theories of general relativity changed our understanding of the cosmos, as did his work on quantum theory. But his genius has also led many to hold him up as a poor stereotype of science. The lone genius who ignores the science of his day to overturn everything with a simple brilliant theory. He’s become the icon of every crackpot who feels compelled to send emails to scientists about their idea that will revolutionize science if we only take the time to listen (and work out all the math for them). But as revolutionary as Einstein’s ideas were, they weren’t entirely unexpected. Other scientists had similar ideas, and developed similar equations. Take, for example, Einstein’s most famous equation, E = mc2Read More