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.”
Review of First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs and the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth
by Marc Kaufman
Simon & Schuster, $26.00, 224 pages, April 2011
Reviewed by Dr. Fred Bortz
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.
It’s been a while since I used this platform to toot my own horn, so I hope you don’t mind this pointer to an on-line profile.
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.
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.
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.
NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has discovered an extraordinary planetary system with six rocky worlds capable of supporting life about 2000 light years from Earth.
Sometimes the news releases that cross my desk astonish me. This was one of them. It comes from NASA’s Fermi Gamma Ray Telescope.
Fermi was launched in 2008, replacing the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) that was deorbited in 2000. I write about CGRO in the chapter on The Great Observatories in my new book Seven Wonders of Space Technology