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Distant Dim DeeDee

In Solar System by Brian Koberlein0 Comments

Beyond the orbit of Neptune lay thousands of icy bodies. These distant worlds are known as Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs), and so far we have only been able to study a few of them. Trans-Neptunian Objects are difficult to study because they are dim and cold. They reflect hardly any light, and emit light due to their temperature at far infrared wavelengths. But the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has both the sensitivity and precision to study these distant worlds. Read More

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Living On Tatooine

In Exoplanets by Brian Koberlein0 Comments

In science fiction we love seeing exotic worlds. One of the most famous is Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine, a desert world with two suns. While it makes for great science fiction, is it really possible for a habitable world to orbit two stars? Read More

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The Circle Of Life

In Life by Brian Koberlein0 Comments

More than 3 billion years ago, life appeared on planet Earth. We aren’t entirely sure how life arose on Earth, but a common idea is that it first formed around hydrothermal vents in our planet’s young oceans. These vents provide not only the thermal energy necessary to sustain life as we know it, they also provide a rich source of chemical compounds useful in forming living organisms. Even today deep sea hydrothermal vents are rich with a diversity of life. If such vents were the home of Earth’s tree of life, similar vents on other worlds might foster life as well. Read More

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Syzygy

In Astronomy by Brian Koberlein0 Comments

If you play Scrabble, you might know syzygy as a great high-point word, but in astronomy it is the term used to describe three celestial bodies in a line. It’s derived from the Ancient Greek word meaning, “yoked together.” Read More

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Looking At The Void

In Black Holes by Brian Koberlein3 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