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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

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Black Holes And Dark Matter

In Black Holes by Brian Koberlein3 Comments

Over the years, dark matter has remained an enigma. Observations of things like large scale galaxy distribution and the motion of stars and gas within galaxies points to the existence of some sort of weakly interacting matter, we still haven’t figured out what this dark matter could be. We know a lot of things it can’t be, such as neutrinos, but the solution still eludes us. So one idea that keeps coming back is that dark matter might be due to black holes. Not stellar mass black holes formed from dying stars, or supermassive black holes found in the centers of galaxies, but smaller black holes that may have formed in the early universe. Read More

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ALMA Sees Hydrogen Super-Halos Around Young Spiral Galaxies

In Galaxies by Brian Koberlein3 Comments

Young galaxies are often surrounded by a halo of hydrogen gas. Over time this gas can be pulled inward, where it can feed star production in the galaxy. While we’ve known these halos existed, it has been difficult to determine their size. But new research from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has found that some galactic halos are surprisingly large. Read More

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Nitrogen Powered

In Solar System by Brian Koberlein0 Comments

If you’ve ever enjoyed a fizzy drink, you know how a gas can bubble out of a liquid. Pick up a bottle of soda, for example, and it looks like an ordinary liquid. But when you open the bottle, small bubbles start to form, rising to the top of the liquid. If you’re not careful, the bubbles can even cause the soda to froth out of the bottle. This frothing effect might also explain strange island-like structures on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan, which seem to appear and disappear from time to time. Read More

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Fast Radio Bursts And Aliens

In Science Fiction by Brian Koberlein2 Comments

Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are short, intense pulses of radio energy that originate billions of light years away. They have incredibly intense energies, but last for only milliseconds, so it isn’t clear what could possibly cause them. Ideas include a neutron star collapsing into a black hole, the collision of two neutron stars, and even an evaporating black hole. Another idea that makes the rounds is that they are produced by an advanced alien civilizationRead More

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What We Really See

In Astronomy by Brian Koberlein3 Comments

When news of the TRAPPIST-1 system blazed across headlines, one of the common questions I got was what the planets really looked like. After all, if we can discover planets around other stars, we surely must be able to see them. But we can’t. In some ways can barely see the star. But this demonstrates how what we actually observe (and what data is important to astronomers) is very different from the common perception of what astronomers observe. Read More

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Doomsday Scenario

In Quantum Mechanics by Brian Koberlein7 Comments

Humans are mortal. Not just as individuals, but also as a species. We can defend against many of the existential dangers to humanity. Threats such as global warming and pollution are well understood, and we can take steps to address them if we have the will. Even cosmic threats such as a civilization ending impact can be mitigated given time. But what about a deeper cosmic threat? What if the Universe could destroy not only our planet, but the entire galaxy, and what if we could never see it coming? Read More