Source: SETI Institute Press-release
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – For the first time, an Earth-sized planet has been found in the habitable zone of its star. This discovery not only proves the existence of worlds that might be similar to our own, but will undoubtedly shape future investigations of exoplanets that could have terrestrial surface environments.
Some may say that our universe is full of beauty, others argue that it is our solar system that surprises us the most, but ultimately I will say that it is the world of small solar system bodies which is strikingly full of diversity. Today’s announcement of the discovery of rings around the Centaur Chariklo by an international team of astronomers is a vivid proof that small solar system bodies have not yet revealed all their secrets.
David Morrison, director of the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute, has written a biographical memoir of Carl Sagan (1934-1996), founder of the modern disciplines of planetary science and exobiology.
In 2003, I was lucky enough to be part of a small group of astronomers that met at the University of California at Berkeley to brainstorm on an innovative idea: the design of an instrument to image and characterize planets around other stars, called exoplanets, using a telescope in the 8 – 10 meter class. A decade later, such an instrument became reality with the arrival of the Gemini Planet Imager (called also GPI, or “Gee-pie”) instrument at the Gemini South telescope in Chile.
The International Astronomical Union has chosen the names Aegis and Gorgoneion for the two moons of the asteroid (93) Minerva. My team discovered the small moons in 2009 using the W. M. Keck Telescope and its adaptive optics system. We proposed the names after receiving input from the public.
Adapted from IDA press release http://www.darksky.org TUCSON, AZ, AND TOULOUSE, FRANCE, 19 December 2013 –
The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) announced today the designation of the first International Dark Sky Place in France. In naming the Pic du Midi International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR), IDA is pleased to recognize the immense local efforts to preserve and protect the exceptionally dark night skies over the Pyrénées Mountains
“In creating the Reserve, the Pic du Midi team has not only protected a vanishing resource, they have made it better than it was,” said IDA Executive Director Bob Parks. “We commend and celebrate their exceptional efforts.”
Together with Cynthia Phillips, one of my SETI Institute colleagues, I will convene a session at the AGU Fall meeting tomorrow afternoon (oral) and Friday December 13 (poster) entitled “Rapid Environmental Change and the Fate of Planetary Habitability“.
This session will be an opportunity to see recent works on the adaptability of life in abrupt climate crises. Recent discoveries inspire us to re-examine our understanding of how rapidly planetary habitats can be redistributed. Past habitable environments on Mars from the Curiosity rover, possible subsurface lakes on Europa, and potentially habitable exoplanets from the Kepler spacecraft continue to expand our definition of the habitable zone.
It is this time of the year again… I am convening and chairing a session on Asteroids entitled “Characterizing Small Solar System Bodies” tomorrow Tuesday at the December 9th at AGU Fall Meeting. It will be composed of nine talks presented in the morning and twenty posters Characterizing Small Solar System Bodies in the afternoon.
I am back from the 45th annual Division of Planetary Sciences meeting in Denver, Colorado, where I presented my findings on the study of the triple asteroid system (87) Sylvia through a poster and in a press conference (video here). Located in the asteroid main-belt, we know that (87) Sylvia possesses two moons since our publication in Nature Journal in 2005. Our team has combined observations from professional-class telescopes and from small telescopes used by amateur astronomers to reveal that this 270-km diameter main-belt asteroid has a complex interior, probably linked to the way the multiple system was formed.
If you need a break today, you should read this poem by G. Landis published recently in the Starship Century Book. Truly inspiring!