See ancient Earth from space

Publication:   Date: April 21, 2011   View Article

Over the past 750 million years, our blue marble has gone through remarkable changes— continents have shifted, ice ages have come and gone, sea levels have risen and fallen, and one-time deserts have turned green, allowing creatures to crawl out of the oceans and live off the land.

These changes are now being made visible by the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo. The first set of the Visible Paleo Earth visualizations are being released today, on Earth DAy, and more will be available in coming weeks.

Device may find Martians in us all

Publication:   Date: March 23, 2011   View Article

Life as we know it has a common ancestor— somewhere. Is it a Martian? A new device under development to fly on a future mission to Mars to find and sequence bits of genetic material could provide an answer, according to MIT and Harvard scientists.

“Given what we know about meteorite impacts and transfer of material between Earth and Mars, we are hoping that life may in fact exist on Mars and that it may in fact be related to us,” Christopher Carr, a MIT research scientist who is leading the project, told me today.

Brown dwarf as cool as coffee found

Publication:   Date: March 23, 2011   View Article

Astronomers have found a star that’s only as hot as a cup of coffee, making it a candidate for the coldest star known. That is, assuming it’s a star.

While a cup of coffee may sound hot — the newly discovered object is about 200 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius) — our sun is about 10,000 degrees F (5,500 degrees C). So, by comparison, it really is quite cold.

The object is considered a brown dwarf, a cosmic misfit that’s cold enough to blur the lines between small cold stars and big hot planets. Astronomers consider brown dwarfs failed stars because they lack the mass and gravity to trigger the nuclear reactions that make stars shine brightly.

Laser eyed to remove space junk

Publication:   Date: March 15, 2011   View Article

NASA-affiliated scientists have proposed using a low-powered, ground-based laser to nudge pieces of space debris off of collision courses with each other.

The proposal, presented in a paper submitted to Advances in Space Research and posted to, is a low-cost solution to the growing problem of space junk.

Kleopatra gave birth to twins … moons

Publication:   Date: February 23, 2011   View Article

Kleopatra, a dog-bone shaped asteroid named after the last pharaoh of ancient Egypt, is a pile of rubble that spawned twin moons about 100 million years ago, astronomers announced in a new study.

The discovery stems from detailed observations of 135-mile-long Kleopatra with the Keck II telescope in Hawaii made in 2008 that confirmed the asteroid’s dog-bone shape and the presence of two moons, each about 5 miles wide.

‘Weird life’ reveals science at work

Publication:   Date: December 29, 2010   View Article

The continuing controversy surrounding the announcement of strange bacteria deep in a California lake that can apparently survive on arsenic and even incorporate the element into its DNA is being held up as a shining example for how the scientific process works.

The latest to point this out are the folks at Real Climate, a blog on climate science — a discipline that is no stranger to controversy.

Help scientists go to the dark side

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 7, 2010   View Article

The universe has a dark side, and an international team of astronomers is calling on scientists and computer geeks of all stripes to help them understand it better.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach