HD 189733b: A planet like Jupiter (but very hot)

HD 189733b: A planet like Jupiter (but very hot)

It sometimes seems like the exoplanet folks put out a press release every time anything half way novel or solar system-like is found. What we don’t hear about are the boring discoveries that fill in the details. One recent paper seems to be flying under the press engine radars. Written by a team of astronomers lead by Frederic Pont, this paper discusses how observations of the Jupiter-sized planet orbiting HD 189733 doesn’t have rings, doesn’t have an overly large moon, and generally just doesn’t have anything hugely exciting in its orbit. HD 189733 did provide a bit of excitement: its active atmosphere provided some star spots for the planet to eclipse. (image credit: CFA / David Aguilar) What is neat about this paper isn’t what...

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AstroFest 2007 (Texas)

I’ll be at AstroFest hanging out, meeting students, and giving a talk on standard star calibrations. If you’re an an SAO alum, consider coming 🙂 Here’s the info on the talk I’ll be giving: Standard Stars, Standard Colors, and the art of not being unique Every set of optics has its own unique set of issues. Some are a little insensitive in the blue, some have something against red. Some filters let through a little more square of a band pass of light, and others let through more sloped a spectral energy distribution. These system to system irregularities mean that a particular star’s instrumental B-V on one scope is not the same as its instrumental B-V on a different telescope. Complicating this are atmospheric differences that cause...

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Outreach and Careers in Academia

Fraser and I got a great letter from someone who listens to Astronomy Cast. This person noted quite correctly that Carl Sagan was strongly criticized for spending so much time popularizing astronomy. This person asked if things have changed significantly for us today. This is a hard question to answer. There are people whose jobs it is to publicize astronomy. They are embraced by the astronomy community for what they do. These people are education and public outreach officers and program directors. These people, unlike Sagan, aren’t professors. I’m trying to be a professor, but to make Astronomy Cast and teaching both happen, I have chosen to teach part time. Like Sagan, I’d like to be a tenured professor, but I’m still trying to figure...

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Harry Potter Star Party

Over on Stuart’s Astronomy Blog, he had a really neat post about an upcoming Harry Potter and Book 7 Star Party. This is a brilliant idea that I’m thinking of stealing (maybe some of you might also consider stealing his idea). All the book stores around here are planning to open at midnight to sell book 7. Many of the bigger ones are already planning special events – street carnivals, costume shows, etc – but the small independent book stores don’t all have the resources to humor restless children desperately awaiting books. So… A friend and I are going to offer ourselves up as entertainment. Maybe it will be fun, may be it will rain, but we’ll at least try and give it a...

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Tau Bootis: Searching Masers around exoplanets

In the past decade, a few things “real” scientists once poo poo’d as science fiction have been found happily taking place in our universe. For instance, just the other day I heard a colleague discussing how planets aren’t found in binary systems. Since he is a physicist, I didn’t laugh, but instead just passed him some references to some nice discoveries that proved his older thinking wrong. One of my favorite named stars is actually part of one of these binary star + planets systems. The stars are (say it out loud to get the full effect) tau Boo a (short for tau Bootis a) and tau Boo b (who said a PhD prevented potty humor). The planet is tau Boo c, and it orbits tau Boo a, which is an F6 main sequence star (a star a bit hotter than...

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