A piece of Mars: This 600×450 m (1969×1476 ft) scene has a complex sedimentary history. How are bearded craters and dunes formed? They weren’t always bearded. At some point, a deposit of bright material accumulated on this surface, and was then eroded so that all that remains of it is what is protected by topography (anything that pokes up like dunes or crater rims). Can you find the boulder that has tumbled downslope (it too has a beard!). (HiRISE ESP_038826_1700, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)
Happy new year, Internet! I’m starting off the year at the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society. It’s an annual conference where all the professional astronomers in the United States get together and talk about space! There’s been some really cool presentations, including the discovery of Earth-sized planets in possibly habitable orbits around other stars by Kepler. Sounds pretty cool right?
A subset of the GPI team was here for the AAS. We gave an update on the GPI Exoplanet Survey, presented posters on debris disks and exoplanets imaged by GPI, and even had a press conference on recent GPI results!
In addition to all the GPI results, the GPI team also had a team lunch to talk about starlight subtraction. Even with the star masked out, starlight still diffracts around the coronagraph and hides the faint exoplanets and debris disks that we are trying to see. As you might guess, starlight subtraction is a really important for GPI, especially with the kickoff of the GPI Exoplanet Survey just a couple of months ago. The content of meeting was a bit technical so I’ll spare you the summary here. It was a productive lunch though, and overall it’s been a great conference!
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For release at the American Astronomical Society meeting press confer-ence January 6, 2015, 10:15am (PST)
Publication-quality images available at:
THE GEMINI PLANET IMAGER PRODUCES STUNNING OBSERVATIONS IN ITS FIRST YEAR
Stunning exoplanet images and spectra from the first year of science operations with the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) were featured today in a press conference at the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Seattle, Washington. The Gemini Planet Imager GPI is an advanced instrument designed to observe the environments close to bright stars to detect and study Jupiter-like exoplanets (planets around other stars) and see proto-stellar material (disk, rings) that might be lurking next to the star.
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I decided to do something new to start the New Year. I translated a podcast from a program called Geopolitics on France Inter written by Anthony Bellanger. You can listen to the original French version here.
I like the text since it is quite optimistic and it summarizes the progresses that we have made over the past 50 years. The world is not perfect yet, but it is indeed a better place.
Are there any reasons to wish people a Happy New Year 2015?
I believe there are many and would like to explain why.
First: our health. Never have so many people all over the world been so healthy and well cared for.
It may seem strange to say that when nearly 8,000 people have died of Ebola in West Africa in recent months, and when the epidemic is far from defeated—yet it’s true.
Over the last half century , the infant mortality rate has fallen by two-thirds and the average human lifespan has increased by twenty years and continues to grow. Better yet, the difference in life expectancy between rich and poor countries is narrowing year by year.
Thanks to modern medicine, diseases that decimated entire populations throughout history are almost eradicated. The number of polio cases, for example, has fallen by 99% since 1988.
Between 2000 and 2015, the number of global malaria cases has dropped in half thanks to a global mobilization against the disease. Even AIDS, which appeared only 30 years ago, is now tested for and treated all over the world.
What about hunger and education?
Here, too, things are looking up. Hunger around the world declines annually. Since the early 90s — only 25 ago! — the percentage of undernourished people around the world has fallen by half.
The great famines that killed tens of thousands of people in the 1980s — in Ethiopia, for example —have disappeared. The world is better organized than ever and extremely efficient at delivering emergency medical and food aid when and where it is needed.
On the education front, results are even more impressive: In only 10 years, school enrollment for boys and girls has increased from 84 to 89% in primary grades and 60 to 73% in secondary grades. Around the world, three out of four children go to school until they are at least 14 years old!
We see similar improvements in the area of extreme poverty, which has fallen by 50 percent since 1990. This is unheard of in human history.
What is the source of this improvement?
We all are! Despite what we may hear or say, international institutions — the UN, NGOs and many others —work effectively: they treat, train, vaccinate, feed and intervene anywhere in the world where they are needed.
Even freedom is rising: in the last half century, the number of democratic states has tripled, and half the world’s population now lives under this type of government which — though often imperfect — is a unique achievement in human history.
So yes, one may wish people a Happy New Year, knowing that there will be wars, massacres, and many other disasters but also knowing that we have never been better educated, cared for and nurtured than we are in 2015.
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A piece of Mars: A long, low dune covered in long, linear ripples stretches across the scene (600×450 m; 1969×1476 ft). Dark gray areas on the dune show where sand has most recently moved. A small slip face has formed on the southeast side of the dune, but ripples have formed on it, so there haven’t been any recent avalanches here. (ESP_038615_1665, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)
A piece of Mars: Some time ago, something hit the ground on Mars and made this impact crater, right into a field of ripples. Stuff thrown up during the impact fell back down, burying the ripples with the gray ejecta rays that radiate from the crater. But the wind kept blowing, and in some places you can see where new ripples have formed on top of the ejecta. That’s Mars for you: wind, wind, wind, impact(!), more wind… (HiRISE ESP_038918_1650, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)
Can you believe it is December already!? As usual, it is a busy month with the AGU Fall Conference. I co-organized a session on small solar system bodies with Padma Yanamandra-Fisher (PSI) and Julie Castillo (JPL). We will talk about recent discoveries in this emerging field including the discovery of rings around Chariklo, the understanding of regolith motion on asteroids, the new lander for Hayabusa 2 (MASCOT) and off course adaptive optics observations of asteroids. Below more info. See you there!
Where: Thursday, December 18, 2014 01:40 PM – 03:40 PM
When: Moscone West 3002
Why: The composition and physical properties of Small Solar System Bodies (SSSBs), remnants of the formation of planets, are key to better understand the origins of our solar system and their potential as resources is necessary for robotic and human exploration. Missions such as ESA/Gaia, NASA/OSIRIS-REx, JAXA/Hyabusa-2, NASA/Dawn and NASA/New Horizons, to study asteroids, comets, dwarf planets and TNOs are poised to provide new in situ information. on SSSBs. Recent remote observations of bright and main belt comets; asteroid Chariklo, with its ring system; asteroid and KBO binaries illustrate that the distinction between comets and asteroids is blurred, providing a new paradigm for such classification. This session welcomes abstracts on the remarkable results bringing information on the internal structure and composition of SSSBs based on space and ground-based data, numerical models, as well as instrument/mission concepts in theprospect of future exploration.
A piece of Mars: On the left is a steep slope leading to a hill. On the right are waves – but not waves of water or any other kind of liquid. These are dunes or very large ripples, blown by the wind into intricate patterns. Sharp eyes might spy boulders that have rolled downslope into this “sea” – there’s even a dotted track that one boulder made as it went. Can you find the boulder? (HiRISE ESP_038799_1590, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)
A piece of Mars: This circular hill is 200 m (~656 ft) across and ~48 m (~160 ft) high. It stands alone on a relatively flat plain. Why is it there? The surface here used to be ~48 m higher than it is now – on that old surface, a crater formed. The crater was filled in by sediment. And then the surrounding terrain was eroded away by the wind (that’s a whole lot of stuff to be removed over time!). What’s left is the old crater fill, but one day it too will be blown away. (HiRISE ESP_038309_1870, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)
I just… felt like putting up a pretty picture from MAHLI, the microscopic imager on Curiosity. This is image 0817MH0003250050301497E01_DXXX, taken Nov. 23, 2014 (sol 817). The camera mainly takes closeup images of rocks, but it’s also good for a quick landscape shot. You can see where the camera was pointing here.
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