Astro quickies

By Phil Plait | January 21, 2009 12:00 pm

Because I’m busy, here are some short astro-notes to keep you occupied:

1) A bright bolide was seen over the northwestern US the other day. You can watch video of it here… and is that our own AstroAlice in the interview? Why yes, I think it is. She’s on Twitter, too.

2) [Oops! The following report may not be correct! See the comment below. I’ll see if I can turn anything more up about this.] A planet discovered using gravitational lensing recently was estimated to have about three times the mass of the Earth. However, follow-up observations indicate it may be only 1.4 times the Earth’s mass! If that pans out, it’ll be the lowest-mass planet yet seen orbiting a sun-like star.

3) Emily has updated her totally cool asteroid size comparison chart, and now you can even buy a print of it!

4) Astroengine has a way cool picture posted from a clever astrophotographer who has encoded a message in the stars. Can you figure it out?

5) The SkepTick was at the inauguration in DC, but the government was watching him. From space.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff

Comments (16)

Links to this Post

  1. Earth’s Twin (maybe) « If It Were Obvious | January 21, 2009
  2. Alice’s Astro Info | January 26, 2009
  1. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    1.4 Earthh mass – that was, quite suddenly, a close match! Raises expectations on future observations around red dwarfs, I presume.

  2. jm

    about 2) , I got this curricular this morning clarifying the new estimations:

    Dear All,
    The New Scientist and perhaps other media outlets are reporting that the mass of MOA-2007-BLG-192Lb has been revised down to 1.5 Earth masses, but these reports are in error. The reporter has been confused by a report of one of my colleagues regarding a revision in the mass estimate that would be possible if the host star was confirmed to be a ~0.09 solar mass M-dwarf instead of a brown dwarf. The correct mass estimate remains 3.3 (+4.9 / – 1.8) Earth masses. This is currently the lowest mass estimate for an exoplanet except for PSR 1257+12 b, but the error bars have large overlap with a number of other planets detected by both radial velocities and microlensing.

    – David Bennett, for the MOA, OGLE, and PLANET collaborations

    List –

  3. JackC

    No trouble with the Morse in #4 here.

    de N4FFD, 73

  4. Hey Phil :-)

    Thanks for picking up that Morse image from Astroengine – I was captivated by it myself! Really boosted my urge to actually do some practical astronomy, I’ve spent way too long reading the books :-)

    Cheers! Ian

  5. Cupcakus

    The sat pictures are creepy, from space millions of people look far too similar to what was growing on my 3 week old pasta I threw out last night.

  6. Long to send #4 with a key though… all those dashes.

    de VE3OIJ (currently CG3OIJ for the event referred to in #4) 73

  7. “Meteor spotted over US” – “Page last updated at 11:25 GMT, Sunday, 23 November 2008”

    Are you sure that’s the correct video? Unless there was another bolide, that’s not ‘the other day’.

  8. bigjohn756

    What year is it? It’s written in the stars.

  9. Saw #4 at (archives, January 20th) first. Really a clever guy, but it seems that the work on the photo wasn’t only fun – from the article:

    “This is actually a series of 28 separate exposures on one piece of film. The ‘dots’ are 30-second exposures; the ‘dashes’ are 3-minute exposures. The ‘shutter’ creating the gaps was my shivering, gloved hand held over the lens in the 0ºF Colorado air. The entire message required just under two hours to record. Every few minutes, I had to turn on a blow dryer to keep the frost from forming on the lens–and me!”

  10. Supernova

    I couldn’t determine the date of the bolide event from that page/video either. I saw a bright meteor (from Denver, in the northern sky) on the night of Jan. 14th and was wondering if this was the same one…

  11. quadrantid2

    what is the name phenomena in which the object skimming the earth’s atmosphere is significantly larger than the standard “shooting star”? I saw what I thought was called a bolide, but now I am thinking differently. What I saw was a very large object that moved much slower than a shooting star, and I want to know what to call this type of object.

  12. “A bright bolide was seen over the northwestern US the other day”

    A likely story! Haven”t you ever seen Cloverfield?

  13. Nigel Depledge

    Jack C & Evolving Squid.

    Also no prob, even though the CW is rusty as … erm … a very rusty thing.

    de G0TSR 73

  14. Alice

    Wow. BBC – huh. Their date for that clip is November 08. Well, that video of me is from … either _early_ 2008 or back in 2007 … or was it before that? I don’t remember – it wasn’t the November 08 or the ephemeral “recent” one – I didn’t report on either of those, but my clip got picked up for the one in November.

    Especially since I was in FLORIDA enjoying the SUN when this happened…

    Though it wasn’t before May of 07, because that’s how long my hair’s been blue!

    Yay for becoming international!


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar