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 ❯

SETICon in the Bay Area, California (Aug 13-15 2010)
Published 4/19/2010 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
The SETI Institute announced recently that the first SETICon will be held on August 13-15 2010 at Santa Clara in California.  This event is dedicated to the general public and will give  the possibility to meet the SETI Institute scientists and their colleagues and learn about our research and goals. To celebrate science and exploration, to learn about the SETI research and to meet the main players of this project, the SETICon will take place at the Hyatt Regency of Santa Clara, CA, USA. The goal is to reach all kind of public from 5th graders interested in science to enthusiasts... read more ❯

SETI 25th Anniversary 3/6: life – what, where, how, when?
Published 2/24/2010 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
This is definitely the banner for which I am the least qualified to write about since I am not a biologist. It is, however a very important part of the SETI Institute research that needs to be fully acknowledged and fully described. Astrobiologists from the SETI Institute dedicate their effort to response to these simples. What is life? When did life appear? Where is it coming from? How did life evolve? In their lab they analyze samples of organisms such as extremophile, which are known to live at the edge of what normal organisms could tolerate. These “super-organisms” are found in... read more ❯

SETI Institute Anniversary 1/6: The Milky Way Galaxy
Published 2/19/2010 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
It is getting more and more difficult to find a dark place, without night pollution and far from the smog of the cities, to be able to realize that we are part of a large barred spiral galaxy called the "Milky Way Galaxy".  Seen from Earth, our galaxy will appear as a fuzzy arc in the sky commonly called the Milky Way and composed of 200-400 billion stars. This picture  taken by Tony Hallas, a mosaic of 24 frames taken in north of California, was shown in APOD on December 25 2009. Our Galaxy is old with an estimated age of... read more ❯

Foggy day & Foggy mind - SETI Anniversary Colloquium
Published 2/18/2010 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
Today I was not sure I will find my office at UC-Berkeley. As you can see on this picture it was not an easy task and I had to rely on my instincts and my phone GPS to find it. 🙂 Anyway, here I am thinking about what should be my priorities in the list of important tasks that I have to do today. Somehow this picture is depicting a bit how I feel about my work today. I mentioned that my priorities for these first 2 months of 2010 were to... read more ❯

Five exoplanets discovered by Kepler - a discussion and a movie
Published 1/14/2010 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
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.You may remember that shortly after its first light, the Kepler team published an exquisite lightcurve of a known exoplanet transit called HAT-P-7b. This exoplanet was discovered from the ground by the HATnet survey and was reported by... read more ❯

An update about the LCROSS mission
Published 11/10/2009 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
Last June, I mentioned the LCROSS mission which was aimed at impacting the surface of the Moon. 113 days after its journey, this event indeed happened on October 9 2009. At 04:31 UT the Centaur upper stage rocket  hit the surface, followed by LCROSS itself at 04:39 UT.  It was recorded by several telescopes located at Hawaii and in the US (where it was visible) and by another NASA spacecraft called Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) in orbit around the moon. The Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) was a mission specifically designed for active sensing through impact. The scientists hoped to reveal the... read more ❯