An ELT made of cardboard in your garden?
Published 9/29/2011 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
I am calling myself a Planetary Astronomer, essentially because I use ground-based telescopes to study our solar system bodies. Even if I often write posts on this blog  about the wonderful results brought to us by space missions, space stations and other space-releated projects, my heart and my work are mostly dedicated to pushing the limit of ground-based telescopes and their instruments. Extremely Large Telescopes (or ELTs), ground-based telescopes with an aperture larger than 30m are without any doubt the next giant leap in the development of astronomy. I always wondered what it would be to be close to one... read more ❯

UARS reentry visible from the Bay Area and elsewhere...?
Published 9/23/2011 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
If you have been following the news about space over the past 5 days, you may have heard about this gigantic 6.5-ton satellite dedicated to the study of our Earth atmosphere (UARS for  Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite) that is supposed deorbit tonight on September 24 2011 UT. The question we all have in mind is where and when this spectacular event will happen. [See updates at the end of this post] Various space organizations around the world (SpaceTrack, FFRDC, & CNES) have dedicated teams to follow the orbit of the... read more ❯

NASA announced key pre-selected Discovery Missions
Published 5/6/2011 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
Today NASA announced three future key missions preselected as part of the Discovery program named GEMS, TiME and Comet Hopper. This is an important announcement, which was anxiously eagerly expected by our community. The NASA Discovery program is a low-cost mission ($425 million FY2010) program aimed at developing and support well-defined and narrow-range science mission in the field of planetary exploration. Discovery is a dynamic and highly valuable program which had led to a lot of well-known missions with a wide range of scientific goals including (adapted from Visions & Voyages Decadal survey): - NEAR Showmaker (Feb 1996) to rendezvous the Near... read more ❯

Allen Array Telescope and the SETI Institute
Published 4/29/2011 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
My previous post on the hibernation of the Allen Array Telescope got a lot of attention and I have been contacted by various people to discuss its impact on the institute and on my research. First of all, I should remind my readers that the SETI Institute is a research institution composed of three departments: - The Center for education and public outreach which manages the E/PO of various NASA projects such as Kepler and SOFIA and also our Research Experience for Undergraduates program. - The Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe composed of ~60 scientists who... read more ❯

Today the Allen Array Telescope is hibernating
Published 4/22/2011 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
First of all, a disclaimer: I am not NOT involved in the Allen Array Telescope, neither I conduct astronomical programs using radio telescopes. I am writing this post about the Allen Array Telescope (ATA) since it is a joint project  effort by the SETI Institute and the Radio Astronomy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley and I am working for these institutions. This post describes the current situation for the ATA based on information collected after discussions with my colleagues at both institutions. The Allen Array Telescope (ATA) is a radio interferometer located at Hat Creek Observatory, 300 miles north of San Francisco,... read more ❯

A Valentine night with Tempel-1 ?
Published 2/15/2011 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
Today is the night of Valentine day, I am not particularly romantic but I always tried to do something special for this day. Unfortunately, this year Valentine day is a disaster since I have several deadlines including an important paper which needs to be submitted before midnight. At 10:50pm PST, my student (E. Enriquez) and I found out that Icarus Journal changed the rules of publication and we have to submit a final, high quality version, of each figure of this paper about the binary asteroid (90) Antiope. While my student is driving back to our office to make those... read more ❯

Kepler-10b – The first unambiguous rocky exoplanet
Published 1/10/2011 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
It is done. The Kepler team finally announced the discovery of its first terrestrial exoplanet. A referred journal, accepted in the Astrophysical journal (here) by Natalie Batalha and a large number of colleagues, describes this new member of the exoplanet family. This is the 519th known exoplanet based on the Extra-solar Planets Catalog, but definitely a special one. This... read more ❯

Quiescent volcanic activity on Io in November 2010
Published 12/8/2010 in Franck Marchis Blog Author itops
On the first half-nights of November 29 and 30 UT, telescope time with the W.M. Keck II telescope and its Adaptive Optics (AO) was granted to us. The goal of this observation program was to search and study multiple asteroids. Since Jupiter was close to its opposition and observable at the beginning of the night, we spent a short amount of time to observe Io, innermost Galilean satellite of Jupiter, well-known for its exotic and spectacular volcanism. An adaptive otics system (AO in short) removes in real time the effect of the atmospheric turbulences which blur the images collected from the... read more ❯

Three months without a post...
Published 12/1/2010 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
It has been almost three months that I did not post anything on this blog. My last post written on September 9 was about the moving to a new location of the SETI Institute. I am happy to say that the moving is now completely finalized. We are back! While the institute was closed for a month, I moved most of the computers of our group at UC-Berkeley. Because several of my students are based at UC-Berkeley the disruption for our group was minor. On October 1, I moved back to the new SETI Institute to find my office almost identical to... read more ❯