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Egg-Shaped World Has A Ring

In Solar System by Brian Koberlein

Beyond the orbit of Pluto lies a small world known as Haumea. Named after Hawaiian goddess of fertility, it is one of the five dwarf planets in our solar system. It is about half the size of Pluto, but it shares something in common with the gas planet Saturn: an icy ring. Read More

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A Big Science thank you to TV sizzle reel backers

In Big Science by Brian Koberlein

The Big Science team is working hard this month to prepare a “sizzle reel” following a successful Kickstarter fundraiser that brought in $22,237 Canadian dollars. The sizzle reel will accompany a pitch to networks and streaming services for a possible television show about the employees and community at major science facilities around the world. Already, the team has made two research trips to the Green Bank Observatory in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. We’ll keep you updated as things progress. Read More

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The Moon Once Had An Atmosphere

In Moons by Brian Koberlein

For centuries humans have dreamed of traveling to the Moon. We achieved that dream in 1969, but found our sister world to be a dry airless rock. Most of the early stories of a journey to the Moon painted a very different picture, giving the Moon a breathable atmosphere, and perhaps even exotic life. We now know the Moon is barren of life, but there was a time when the Moon had an atmosphere. Read More

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How To Detonate A Star

In Supernovae by Brian Koberlein

The most powerful way a star can die is through a supernova explosion. Through nuclear physics and the pull of gravity, a star can be ripped apart, shining brighter than an entire galaxy for a brief moment of cosmic time. There are several kinds of supernovae, but one particular kind known as Type Ia is particularly interesting to astronomers. And we still aren’t entirely sure how they occur. Read More

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The Sun-Centered Galaxy

In Milky Way by Brian Koberlein

The stars in the Milky Way have generally circular orbits, and move through the galaxy at a speed of about 200 km/s. This is also true for our Sun. But how do we know this, given that our Sun is in the disk of the Milky Way, and we can only see our galaxy from our Sun’s vantage point? It all has to do with relative motion.Read More

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Nibiru, Climate Change, and Other Pseudoscience

In Pseudoscience by Brian Koberlein

In four days, Nibiru will strike the Earth, raining destruction upon us all. September 23, 2017 to be precise. At least according to a YouTube video with nearly 3 million views. Of course, that’s crazy. There is no Nibiru, and nothing remotely planet sized has any chance of striking Earth. But that hasn’t stopped people from sending astronomers emails, or calling local science centers to ask about the apocalypse. Even when we assure them there’s no risk, or explain how we know Nibiru doesn’t exist, they still have doubts. We’re probably lying, or haven’t looked at the “real” evidence. Read More

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How Saving Energy Can Hurt Astronomy

In Astronomy by Brian Koberlein

Artificial light has transformed human society. It frees us from the darkness, and allows us to light our homes and communities. It has also made the night sky increasingly less dark, which poses a challenge to astronomers. And it’s gotten worse in recent years, thanks to an energy-saving light known as LEDs. Read More