Happy Thanksgiving

This blog started to slowly blossom into existence (admittedly on another URL) about this time last year. It was a staggered start, and I didn’t really start to pay regular attention to it until January. Still, a year into this personal experiment in public writing I find myself thankful that a group of you have found the time to ride along, and explore the universe with me on a regular basis. Thank you my gentle listeners for joining me. On the strange American eating holiday, I am grateful for the time and support you all have shown me over the months. You have all made what I’m doing worth it.

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Another Close Binary, Another Big Planet

Another Close Binary, Another Big Planet

At this point we’ve found planets in a enough places that I shouldn’t still be surprised when a neat new world is found in a neat new place. Nevertheless, I found myself awed by a new discovery of a new planet with a 3.69 year period orbiting in a close binary. This particular discovery caught my attention for two reasons. First off, the data on this object spans ~14 years – that is a lot of data to put together. Second, this is a really close binary to have a planet! They found a planet (2.96 Jupiter masses or larger) orbiting 2.63 AU from a star that has a companion at 17.23 AU. This system is HD196885A and the announcement came in a paper with A.C.M. Correia as lead author. Imagine the chaos involved in forming this little world. Its Sun, an...

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Psychiatry by Adjective?

Some areas of astronomy are way more competitive than others. Variable stars, the sub-field of astronomy I’m most comfortable in, is a very friendly group. There is amiable collaboration between professional and amateur astronomers, and I’ve never met a variable star astronomer who isn’t willing to talk, advise, and generally talk shop in a collegial manner. Not all areas of astronomy are like this. And I have to wonder what a profiler would make of the various subfields of astronomy based on the nick names and adjectives we use. For instance, consider the habit of minor planet astronomers to name things in honor of childhood heros (There is an asteroid named Mrrogers, and another named Annefrank), and holiday favorites (consider the nick named...

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Making Research

Making Research

One of the joys, frustrations, most loved, and most hated parts of being a professor is attempting to do research. I say attempting because sometimes the data just doesn’t want to produce anything useful. There are good times. For instance, in about three months this summer and fall Fraser Cain and I, with the help of undergraduate Rebecca Bemrose-Fetter and graduate student Georgia Bracey, managed to do a quick a solid study on who listens to Astronomy Cast and responds to surveys. The paper is already published and you can find it here. That was fun, challenging to analyze in a “I need a brain but not a Nobel prize” kind of way. That’s the type of low-hanging-fruit every researcher likes to pick and munch every now and again. The...

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Sunday evening muse seeking

Sunday evening muse seeking

I have to admit that I’ve been struggling to write for the past week. I had some family stuff come up with my extended family and it triggered a frustrating case of writer’s block. At the end of each day, I’ve looked at my computer, contemplated that I should write, and then found no words to write. I’m trying to force myself to get back into it. Normally, writing comes easily to me, but … I guess we all have our moments, and right now I’m struggling to find my muse. The news certainly isn’t helping me find writing inspiration. Flipping through my press releases, I found a very uninspiring set of Hubble images of Comet Holmes, and a troubling story about the UK pulling their funding from Gemini Observatory. Now...

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