Monthly Archives: September 2011

  • Vesta – An asteroid full of surprises

    I don’t have time to write about this… but I’m not sure that matters, because my words can’t do justice to the beauty of this video of Vesta from the Dawn team. Their words will do a much better job of describing things, including some of the science you can un-asteroid from these images. More here:

  • Why Astrobiology?

    Earlier this month, I was invited to deliver lectures at INFN (Italian Nuclear Agency) in a summer school entitled “Terrestrial atmosphere and cosmic rays” held at the LNGS campus (Gran Sasso Naional Lab) in L’Aquila, Italy. Aside from talking about the atmosphere and cosmic rays, I had a lot to talk about Astrobiology as well. It was the first occasion when I will be lecturing an audience of high-energy physicists. Although, I have given talks to such an audience, but never in the lecture format, which requires much more preparation on my part than a typical talk.

    At the time

  • Closing in on Extrasolar “Earths”

    A nice summary of recent exoplanet discoveries. It’s early days yet, but a preliminary estimate is that the percentage of stars that have Earth-like planets (i.e., rocky and in the habitable zones of their stars) is about 34%.

    As this article points out, the current indirect methods of planet hunting will not get us all that far in characterizing these worlds as they are discovered. To look for oceans and atmospheres, the next step is either a new generation of space telescopes for followup observations, or developing

  • DARWIN: Scientist. Naturalist. Serious to do list.

    Evolution is referred as the “e-word” in the south… As heart breaking as this may be, it also reflects a reality that us, scientists and educators face on a daily basis.

    For this particular reason, I am enjoying the bilboards and public transportation vehicles carrying around the announcement of the upcoming exhibition: ”Darwin: Scientist, Naturalist, Serious to do list” at the Fernbank Museum of Atlanta in Georgia. No, I am not kidding, each time I see a bus or a flyer in a random location, I put on a smile! So,

  •, now international (and soon interplanetary?)

    Please join me in welcoming’s newest author, Dimitra Atri. Dr. Atri is currently a India Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) Visiting Fellow at the Department of High Energy Physics in the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, India. He studies the interaction of high-energy particles of astrophysical origin with the terrestrial atmosphere and its biota. He is interested in exploring the interface between the physical and biological worlds, extraterrestrial intelligence research, science education and public outreach projects.

    That’s what’s going on the “authors” page. My more personal take/assessment is that Dimitra is one of the world’s preeminent thinkers when

  • Have we found a potential “forest moon?”

    Based on some conversations I’ve had with others (that are also NOT in the know), I’ll offer up another possibility for what the Kepler team might announce at their press conference later today… the first discovery of an exo-moon. It could even be an Earth-sized moon orbiting a gas giant. Sound familiar? That would certainly explain the presence of John Knoll, from Lucas Arts’ Industrial Light and Magic. One of the major “planets” in the Star Wars canon – Endor – is a jungle moon orbiting a gas giant. It would also explain the presence of Laurance Doyle as the