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Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, planets, Space Craft.
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TONIGHT the largest rover ever to land on a planet will enter Mar’s astmosphere! Curiosity is over 5 times bigger than the previous Mar’s rover. To get the details of what is refereed to the “7 minutes of terror” , which is what the scientists call the time it takes to enter the Martian atmosphere and land, click on the NASA video below. Since Mars is 154,000,000 miles away it takes a light or radio signal 14 minutes to reach Earth. So the landing is totally controlled by the on-board computer reading the  sensors, and then adjusting the course. For the scientists waiting on Earth who have spent a good part of a decade on this mission, it will be closer to 7+14=21 minutes of terror, before they know if it is a success or a failure.

There will be a GOOGLE+ hangout event sponsored by Universe Today at http://goo.gl/a5t4O


Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, planets, Solar and Space weather, Sun.
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Come to the Charleston public library to view the transit of Venus. From 4:30pm to 6:00PM TODAY!!



Posted by jcconwell in planets, Podcast.
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Sponsored by the Physics Department at Eastern Illinois University


This podcast discusses the topic of Exoplanets and life on other planets out of our solar system

Thomas HofstätterBio: Born in 1993 near Vienna, Austria, Europe. Upper High School with focus on Computer Science.Interested in extreme small and extreme big, devious and uninvestigated things.Thomas Hofstätter main aim is to bring astronomy to public and to establish secular interest in astronomy, physics and mathematics. Host of :: The Hidden Space Project :: at


Earth-sized Exoplanet is in Nearby Star’s Habitable Zone! September 29, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, planets.
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Gliese 581d

(From Universe Today) An enticing new extrasolar planet found using the Keck Observatory in Hawaii is just three times the mass of Earth and it orbits the parent star squarely in the middle of the star’s “Goldilocks zone,” a potential habitable region where liquid water could exist on the planet‘s surface. If confirmed, this would be the most Earth-like exoplanet yet discovered and the first strong case for a potentially habitable one. The discoverers also say this finding could mean our galaxy may be teeming with prospective habitable planets.

“Our findings offer a very compelling case for a potentially habitable planet,” said Steven Vogt from UC Santa Cruz. “The fact that we were able to detect this planet so quickly and so nearby tells us that planets like this must be really common.”

Vogt and his team from the Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey actually found two new planets around the heavily studied red dwarf star Gliese 581, where planets have been found previously. Now with six known planets, Gliese 581 hosts a planetary system most similar to our own. It is located 20 light years away from Earth in the constellation Libra.

The most interesting of the two new planets is Gliese 581g, with a mass three to four times that of the Earth and an orbital period of just under 37 days. Its mass indicates that it is probably a rocky planet with likely enough gravity to hold on to an atmosphere.

For more go to the rest of the article at Universe Today.

Astronomy Colloquium: COSMIC COLLISIONS February 22, 2010

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, meteor, planets.
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Dr Heidi Hammel


Dr. Heidi Hammel

Professor of Physics and Astronomy , Space Science Institute

Thursday,  February 25, 4:00PM

Physical Science Building , Room 2120

Sponsored by the College of Sciences in coordination with WISM (Women in Science + Mathematics at EIU)

Dr. Hammel received her undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1982 and her Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from the University of Hawaii in 1988. After a post-doctoral position at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., Hammel returned to MIT, where she spent nearly nine years as a Principal Research Scientist in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.

Dr. Hammel primarily studies the outer planets and their satellites, focusing on observational techniques. She was a member of the Imaging Science Team for the Voyager 2 encounter with the planet Neptune in 1989. In 1994, she led the team that investigated Jupiter’s visible wavelength response to the impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 using the Hubble Space Telescope. Her latest research involves the imaging of Neptune and Uranus with the Hubble Space Telescope, W. M. Keck Observatory,(which houses a pair of much larger (ten-meter) telescopes with an “adaptive optics capability” that eliminates the smearing effect of the Earth’s atmosphere), Mauna Kea Observatory, the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) at the peak of Hawaii’s highest mountain, Mauna Kea and other Earth based observatories.

Astronomers find a “Super Earth” with Atmosphere & Water December 17, 2009

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, planets.
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The discovery is to be published today (December 17th) in the Journal Nature. A Super-Earth is a rocky planet between one and ten times the mass of the Earth. The planet was discovered orbiting the star, GJ1214, which is a nearby red dwarf about 40 light years from Earth. This type M star is about 1/5 the size of the Sun. The star is cool at 4,900 degrees F (3000 degrees K) compared to the Sun’s 10,000F (5700 degrees K) and has a luminosity only .003 as bright as the Sun.The planet, GJ1214b, is about 6.5 times as massive as the Earth.

Credit: CNN

The MEarth project spotted the planet using a 16″ telescope, The same size as at Eastern Observatory. However , it is not as simple as looking at a random star to see a planet.

The MEarth (pronounced “mirth”) Project is an array of eight identical 16-inch-diameter RC Optical Systems telescopes that monitor a pre-selected list of 2,000 red dwarf stars. Each telescope perches on a highly accurate Software Bisque Paramount and funnels light to an Apogee U42 charge-coupled device (CCD) chip, which many amateurs also use. The project looks for the signature dimming of a star caused by an orbiting planet  eclipsing the star.

Credit: Dan Brocious, CfA

MEarth telescopes

GJ1214b orbits its star once every 38 hours at a distance of only two million kilometres — 70 times closer to its star than the Earth is to the Sun. “Being so close to its host star, the planet must have a surface temperature of about 200 degrees Celsius, too hot for water to be liquid,” said Charbonneau.

However, computer models show that because of its larger diameter, compared to its mass, it may have an interior made of water ice. Because the planet is nearby, the Hubble space telescope has a good chance of directly observing the atmosphere of the planet and measure its composition.

IYA PODCAST: The Celestial Alignment of 2012 December 6, 2009

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, IYA 2009, planets, Podcast.
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December 5th’s Podcast

is sponsored by the Department of Physics at

Eastern Illinois University:

The Celestial Alignment of 2012….but not the one in the movies

An astronomical alignment in 2012 heralds the second coming (in the 21st century) of a significant global event. Share the enthusiasm of adventurous astronomers from the past as you witness the heavens in motion, the means by which we learned the size of our solar system—a transit of Venus.

Tuesday November 10: “Other Star Other Planets” November 9, 2009

Posted by jcconwell in IYA 2009, planets.
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IYA Poster #4a

Poster by J Boshart

IYA Talk: “OTHER STARS, OTHER PLANETS” in one week November 3, 2009

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, IYA 2009, planets.
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“OTHER STARS, OTHER PLANETS”  by Jim Kaler Ph.D. , on Tuesday November 10th, 7:00 PM , Phipps Lecture Hall , Physical Science Building. Celebrating the International Year of Astronomy

Take a tour of our Solar System. Then gaze into the heavens and  wonder if it is replicated elsewhere. Are there planets in orbit around other stars? If so, how do we find them, what are they  like? In this talk we will explore not just “extra-solar planets”  (more than 400 found), but extra-solar planetary SYSTEMS, some of
which are beginning to look a lot like our own. Are there then “earths” among the crowd, and is there life? Let the stars themselves tell the story.


Other Stars, Other Planets

Jim Kaler Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of Astronomy at U of I
Past President Astronomical Society of the Pacific, author of over 120 research articles and 20 books,
Asteroid 1998 JK was named 17853 Kaler in honor of his outreach activities, and in 2008 he received the American Astronomical Society’s Education Prize.

New Podcast on Saturn’s Moon Enceladus August 28, 2009

Posted by jcconwell in Astronomy, IYA 2009, moon, planets, Podcast.
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The podcast  for today  at “365 days of astronomy” is sponsored by the Physics department at EIU. This podcast covers the history, current understanding, and upcoming plans for Enceladus, and is moderated by David Seal, Cassini Mission Planner at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

365_iyaThe permanent link is at