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Showing blog posts tagged with Rose Center for Earth and Space

From the Field: Finding Links Between Lowell Observatory and the Museum

From the Field: Finding Links Between Lowell Observatory and the Museum

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Blogging from Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, Emily Rice, a research scientist in the Museum’s Department of Astrophysics, is working with a collaborator to model the atmospheres of low-mass stars, brown dwarfs, and giant gas planets, including descriptions of their chemistry and clouds. A major new exhibition about the future of space exploration opens at the Museum this fall.

My first full day at Lowell Observatory was calm but productive. I situated myself in my temporary office, caught up with friends and collaborators, and reacquainted myself with the observatory grounds.

Lowell Observatory is located on Mars Hill overlooking historic Route 66 and the city of Flagstaff. There are dozens of buildings on Mars Hill housing telescopes, offices, public exhibits, machine shops, and storage. There are also two telescope sites with large scientific telescopes further outside of town, Anderson Mesa and Happy Jack.

The building where I’m staying is the oldest on Mars Hill. It’s called the Slipher Building after the astronomer Vesto Melvin Slipher, who in 1912 first measured the immense speed at which galaxies are moving away from Earth. Edwin Hubble combined Slipher’s measurements with the distances to those galaxies in order to show that the universe is expanding, a result now known as Hubble’s Law. Slipher served as director of Lowell Observatory from 1916 until his death in 1952, and he was responsible for hiring Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto.

Tags: Rose Center for Earth and Space, From the Field

NASA’s Kepler Astronomer Geoff Marcy Discusses Latest Exoplanet Discoveries

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Astronomers associated with NASA’s Kepler observatory have announced the discovery of more than 1,200 new candidate exoplanets. Michael Shara, a curator in the Museum’s Department of Astrophysics, writes about the significance of the findings below.

Does life exist anywhere in the universe except on Earth?  “Star Trek” may have convinced much of the public that the universe is teeming with technological civilizations, but the correct answer is: We don’t know for certain if life–even bacterial life — exists anywhere except on Earth.  A critical challenge in answering this question is determining whether planets — especially Earth-like planets — orbit other stars.

The search for Earth-like planets has just taken a giant leap forward, thanks in part to the tireless work of the dozens of astronomers associated with NASA’s Kepler observatory.  Their quest to find exoplanets — planets orbiting stars other than our Sun — has been a stunning success.  It is now certain that planets are as common stars.

Fifteen years ago the University of California, Berkeley’s Geoff Marcy and a handful of colleagues began an almost quixotic quest for exoplanets.  Dozens, and then hundreds of astronomers joined the quest after Geneva’s Michel Mayor, Marcy, and their colleagues began reporting the first discoveries.  Herculean efforts led to the cataloguing of 500 exoplanets by the end of 2010.  Now the Kepler team has announced the discovery of more than 1,200 new candidate exoplanets, and enough details about each of these new worlds to begin to draw far-reaching conclusions about abodes for life in the universe.

Tags: Space Exploration, NASA, Astronomy Live!, Exoplanets, Rose Center for Earth and Space