Featuring the Women Of Science #WomenOfScience
Published 3/5/2013 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
Today I would like to share with you an idea for the International Women's day on March 8 2013.  If you work in an institution, university, or non-profit related to science, have you taken note of the number of women around you? In astronomy and planetary science, it is not too bad even if it is not perfect, but some "hard" science groups, like physics or computer science, clearly have a low proportion of women in their ranks. I will not elaborate on the reasons for such lack of representation; instead, I propose to focus on the bright side. Yes, there... read more ❯

Kepler is Sick and Resting: "Mountain View, we have a problem"
Published 1/17/2013 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
"Mountain View, we have a problem..." NASA Kepler Manager at NASA Ames, Mountain View announced today that they interrupted the science operation of the spacecraft, due an issue with one of the reaction wheels.  Kepler is equipped with four reaction wheels which are used to accurately point the telescope. One failed in July 2012 and today the team announced that they detected issues with a second one. Kepler needs three reaction wheels to be used properly, if this one fails the mission is most likely over. That's not good news. The team detected an increase of friction on reaction wheel #4 on January... read more ❯

AGU Fall Meeting 2012 - Planetary Evolution and the Fate of Planetary Habitability
Published 12/2/2012 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
Tomorrow is the first day of the AGU Fall Meeting, in San Francisco, CA. I love this conference, not only because it is 30 min door-to-door from my house, but also because it is BIG... Last year there were ~27,000 registered geoscientists, and there is no reason there should be less of them this year. With more than 29 parallel sessions in diverse  topics such as Atmospheric Sciences, Hydrology, Natural Hazards, Biosphere, Volcanology, Cryosphere, Education and of course Planetary Sciences, plus several social events, and press conferences, it will be a feast for scientists, science reporters and the public. Several press conferences and... read more ❯

Gemini Planet Image joined the Cosmic Diary Network
Published 6/12/2012 in Gemini Planet Imager Author Franck Marchis
The Gemini Planet Imager team is joining the Cosmic Diary Network. GPI is the next generation adaptive optics instrument being built for the Gemini South Telescope. The goal is to image extrasolar planets orbiting nearby stars. The GPI team will use this blog to show the progress on the development of this instrument and discuss the science results which will be obtained in 2013. WHO: GPI is being built by a consortium of U.S. and Canadian institutions, funded by the Gemini Observatory, which is an international partnership comprising the U.S.A., U.K., Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brazil & Chile. WHEN: After more than 5 years of development (preliminary design review... read more ❯

Thoughts about a beautiful NASA video - Save Our Science
Published 5/8/2012 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
Today I am feeling inspired and motivated. It could easily have not been the case since the day started with a massive crash of my email inbox, a difficult review of a recently submitted paper, and some issues with my simulation that I am planning to present at the ACM conference next week – not to mention a lack of sleep. Still, all of this became irrelevant when I watched NASA’s new promotional video attached below. Sometimes it is good to be reminded how lucky we are to be part of this adventure. Never in the history of mankind have we had access to... read more ❯

Searching for Fragments of the Sutter's Mill Meteorite
Published 4/26/2012 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
An update about the Sutter's Mill Meteorite that I mentioned yesterday. A few hours ago, I saw the pieces that Peter Jenniskens brought at the SETI Institute. I am not a meteorite expert but they indeed look like a carbonaceous chondrite meteorite. The fragments are black, with tiny white flecks scattered through the interior. On the surface, one can see black coating due to the heating during the passage through the Earth atmosphere. While watching them, I had this unreal... read more ❯

Next-gen Suborbital Missions: a talk and a Conference
Published 2/25/2012 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
Join us on Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 7:00pm at the Colloquium room of the SETI Institute to hear a talk by Andrew Nelson, Chief Operating Officer of XCOR. Title: The Trillion Dollar Space Enterprise --> Or How The Lynx Suborbital Vehicle Will Change The World by Andrew Nelson, Chief Operating Officer of XCOR Abstract: Fully resuable spacecraft are the critical enabler for regular, low cost and safe access to space, and such access will enable space utilization in ways we've only dreamed about in the past. Much as the early ARPANET laid the foundation... read more ❯

Kepler-16: Exoplanets around binary star systems DO exist
Published 9/15/2011 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
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? In the large 105 deg2 field of view of the Kepler spacecraft, ~156,000 stars are being almost continuously observed by the 0.95m telescope. In 2010, the star number KIC... read more ❯

An Occultation by the double asteroid (90) Antiope seen in California
Published 7/21/2011 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
Last Tuesday July 19 at 3:25am PDT, several SETI REU students and colleagues from SETI institute and Observatoire de Paris were on the road. They were looking at the sky with  tiny telescopes and surrounding by complex instruments somewhere in the middle the Californian countryside to witness and record a rare event: the occultation of a bright 7-mag star by the double asteroid (90) Antiope. (90) Antiope is clearly a remarkable and unique binary asteroid. It is made of 2 large (~86 km) ellipsoidal components orbiting around their center of mass in 16.5 hours, describing a circular orbit with a... 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 ❯

Cosmic Diary Blog hosted at the SETI Institute
Published 2/10/2011 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
An important update for our readers. You may have noticed a lack of activity over the few days on this blog and a significant change in the speed access of this blog. The Cosmic Diary web site is now hosted at the SETI Institute. We will make a few changes in the design which should improve its reliability. More in a few days, please be patient. Thanks to the IT department of the SETI Institute for their help with this new project. F. read more ❯

I am "SETI-less" but not for long.
Published 9/9/2010 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
Last Friday (Aug. 27) I took a picture of my office located at the SETI Institute, Whismann Rd in Mountain View which is attached below. Obviously there is something wrong here, since I am not very known for having an aseptic office. My office is a reflection of my personality and my research. You will find several layers of articles that I "was about to/have to/should" read/revise/finalize/correct, various opened books that I am using on a regular basis, and zillion of hand-writing notes which are important, but understandable only by... read more ❯

SETI REU students 2010 - "This is the end..."
Published 9/8/2010 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
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. Since SETI Institute is a non-profit organization, it is not easy for the SETI researchers to find, attract... read more ❯

Keck AO Observations: Io Volcanism - "Mornes plaines"
Published 7/15/2010 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
It has been a while I did not write anything on this blog. As usual I am late on reporting some news in the world of astronomy. Today I decided to write a short post on observations that we did using the Keck telescope and its AO system about Io. Like last year, my summer is busy with the REU students of the SETI Institute. I will write a specific post on two students who are working with me and their project in a few days. I obtained telescope time at the end of June 2010 with the W.M. Keck II telescope... read more ❯