Kepler-16: Exoplanets around binary star systems DO exist

Kepler-16 is another great discovery coming from the Kepler telescope, the 10th NASA Discovery mission which is devoted to finding Earth-size exoplanets by monitoring variations of brightness due to transit. Today the Kepler team found a circumbinary exoplanet, an exoplanet orbiting a binary star system. Did they find Tatooine?

Artistic view of the Kepler-16(AB)b exoplanet (a Saturn-like exoplanet) in orbit around its 2 stars shown in the background.
Artistic view of the Kepler-16(AB)b exoplanet (a Saturn-like exoplanet) in orbit around its 2 stars shown in the background.

SETI REU students 2010 – "This is the end…"

Three weeks ago was the final week of  the SETI REU students. It was a busy time for all of us since they had to wrap-up their work, write their report, and give their final presentations.  Keaton Burns from UC Berkeley and Bill Freeman from LSU, who worked under my supervision in this program, did a fantastic work over this 10-week internship.

Bill Freeman (left) and Keaton Burns (right), my SETI REU 2010 students, ready to give their final talks.
Bill Freeman (left) and Keaton Burns (right), my SETI REU 2010 students, ready to give their final talks.

Happy Earth Day 2010 – Earth"Spheres" from Space

The Moon and the Atmosphere of Earth
The Moon and the Atmosphere of Earth

Today is the 40th Earth Day, a great opportunity to remind us that our planet is unique and should be taken care of. Each of us can help by small actions which could save energy, water and other resources. Recent studies clearly indicate that we, our society and our way of life, are having an impact on our planet. The emission of carbon dioxide due to human activities which is increasing the temperature, the so-called global warming, is one of them. The massive extinction of animal and planet species or the biodiversity loss should not be forgotten, since it will also have an impact on our civilization. This problem is taken seriously by the biologists and the year 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity.

Five exoplanets discovered by Kepler – a discussion and a movie

I mentioned on this blog on several occasions (see “the first light“) the Kepler mission which aims at detecting exoplanets through the transit method (a.k.a the small attenuation of light due to the passage of the exoplanet between us and the host star). Last week, during the AAS  (say “double ‘A’ ‘S'”) conference, the Kepler team announced the discovery of the first 5 exoplanets.

Some news of the planet Mercury from the AGU Fall conference

Fifteen days ago, I wrote a short post on this blog to let you know that I was flying to Cleveland, OH to meet colleagues interesting in space mission design. Without realizing it, this project has been taking over all my time and my energy (including nights of work and thinking) and produced a roller-coaster of excellent and bad news. Because it is still uncertain what exactly it is going to happen I will not mention it today, but I will keep you posted as soon I see the light at the end of the tunnel. 🙂 Today I will focus my post on a very positive note which is the session Mercury and the Messenger mission that I attended at the AGU Fall conference.