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ASP-EPO: Day One

(I’m on a bad connection and will add links later.) Another day, another conference. From Dragon*Con, I crossed half-way across the country to Chicago to attend the 119th Meeting of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific on “EPO and a Changing World.” This morning I’m sitting in a session presented by astronaut George “Pinky” Nelson […]

And it came from the CMB . . .

wmap_skymap.jpgFraser (my co-host over at Astronomy Cast) and I like to joke about how everything we know in astronomy we know because of the Cosmic Microwave Background. How do we know the universe formed during the Big Bang? The CMB. How do we know the cosmic geometry is flat? The CMB. How do we know the mass distribution of the Oort Cloud? The CMB. How do we know where babies come from? The CMB.

Okay, so that last one is an exaggeration. As far as I know, human babies and the CMB have nothing in common. The remark about the Oort Cloud, however, may not always be as far fetched as it sounds. A group of scientists working at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and lead by David Babich, have theorized a new technique for determining the mass distribution in the Oort cloud using distortions in the Cosmic Microwave Background.

The Sky *was* Falling

On Monday, March 26, a Chilean flight to New Zealand was almost struck by falling bits of space something. The pilot of the flight noted he could see burning up materials both in front and behind the flight. (Information obtained from numerous news sources). Some reports attributed the falling carnage to a Progress M-58 burning up through the atmosphere as it returned from the International Space Station, or at least insinuated as much. In fact, there had been an alert that such a re-entry would be occurring. According to US space officials, however, at the time of the incident the Progress was still attached to the ISS, and no set of calculations can make a Progress be in two places at once. The US Space Surveillance Network had no reports of other re-entering space junk. With all known space junk ruled out, it looks like that airplane was almost almost hit by an asteroid.

That silly little kid in me wishes I had been on that airplane. They could actually hear the fragments burning up.

Should I worry about meteors when I fly? Nope. And doing stats can be fun.