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Asteroid Gamble

In Asteroids by Brian Koberlein1 Comment

Yesterday the kilometer-wide asteroid 2014 JO25 passed within 1.8 million kilometers of Earth. Although that’s nearly 5 times farther than the Moon, it’s a “near miss” by astronomical standards. If such an asteroid were to strike Earth, it would make a crater more than 10 kilometers wide and spread debris more than 100 kilometers in all directions. That’s large enough to wipe my home city of Rochester NY off the map. Fortunately there was no risk of impact for Rochester or anywhere else on Earth, but what are the odds that a sizable asteroid would strike your home town? Read More

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The Cool Spot

In Solar System by Brian Koberlein0 Comments

A prominent feature of Jupiter’s surface is the Great Red Spot, which has been observed continuously since the 1830s. Jupiters red spot was easy to discover because of its prominent coloring. Now a new spot has been discovered that can only be seen in the infrared. Read More

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Seeing The Future In The Stars

In Milky Way by Brian Koberlein2 Comments

Throughout our lives the stars rise and set in a seemingly unchanging pattern. Over the centuries humanity has named constellations and made them legends, and navigated seas by the eternal stars. We now know that stars are not fixed points of light, but rather move ever so slowly across the sky. Read More

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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