Opinion: Hostile Alien Invaders Are Unlikely

Sorry Stephen Hawking, I agree with Jill Tarter. Hostile alien invaders are unlikely–at least not the kind envisioned in SciFi movies. I received the news release reproduced below and it reminded me of a book manuscript that I now have under consideration at a major publisher of books for young readers. That manuscript looks ahead … Read more

Pioneer Anomaly is no longer anomalous

Thanks to funding from the Planetary Society, of which I am a proud member, the “Pioneer Anomaly” has been definitively resolved. Physics has prevailed over speculation. Over the past 20 years, some people, including a few scientists, have looked at oddities in the trajectories of the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft and proposed that our … Read more

James Webb Space Telescope on Chopping Block

URGENT from Heidi Hammel: “The House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee has proposed termination of the James Webb Space Telescope. Now is the time to contact your representatives in Washington, as well as members of the Appropriations Subcommittees, if you support JWST.”

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Track Kepler’s Candidate Exoplanets with a new app

I’m not an app person, but when I got an e-mail from Hanno Rein of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University suggesting that I look at a new iPhone/iPad app called “Kepler” to track the ever-increasing list of candidate exoplanets from the Kepler satellite, I decided to check it out.

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Searching for Martian DNA

I recently began giving a school visit talk called “The Truth About Space Aliens: What We Know and What We Don’t Know About Life on Other Worlds based on Astrobiology book covermy “Cool Science” book, Astrobiology.

This news release will certainly give me more to talk about. We will soon have instruments looking for Martian RNA or DNA, say scientists from MIT and Harvard. If we find it, we will be able to compare it to similar genetic material from Earth.

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Jim Elliot, discoverer of rings of Uranus, 1943-2011

One of the themes in my writing for young readers has been that a scientist’s achievements flow from the richness of his or her life, that s/he is more than his/her discoveries. So I share this obituary of Jim Elliot, who was planetary astronomer Heidi Hammel’s mentor. I never met him, but his kindness was apparent through e-mails exchanged during and after my writing of Heidi’s biography in the Women’s Adventures in Science series.

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Europa serves as guide star for Keck adaptive optics view of Jupiter

One of my greatest writing pleasures has been getting to know Heidi Hammel when I wrote her biography, Beyond Jupiter for the Joseph Henry Press “Women’s Adventures in Science” series. Among the many things we have discussed is the advance in imaging made possible by adaptive optics, which enables the Keck telescope (and others) to correct for atmospheric distortions.

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