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Stories by Caleb A. Scharf

The Interstellar Internet

An interstellar web? (Original image by B. Torrissen) A speculative but intriguing discussion that sometimes crops up when talking to people engaged in exoplanetary science goes like this; let's suppose that we find an unmistakably terrestrial style planet around a relatively nearby star (less than about 30 light years away), perhaps even around one of the Alpha Centauri members, a touch over four light-years distant...

March 26, 2012 — Caleb A. Scharf

`Mass Effect' Solves The Fermi Paradox?

Who's been munching my galaxy? Right now, all across the planet, millions of people are engaged in a struggle with enormous implications for the very nature of life itself.

March 15, 2012 — Caleb A. Scharf

Your Grandmother Was A Molecule

Are you my mommy? (RNA Center, UCSC) Well, perhaps your great-to-the-hundred-millionth-grandmother was.Understanding the origins of life and the mechanics of the earliest beginnings of life is as important for the quest to unravel the Earth's biological history as it is for the quest to seek out other life in the universe...

March 14, 2012 — Caleb A. Scharf

Gravitational Mesolensing And The Hunt For Exoplanets

It's full of lenses... When astronomers talk about methods for finding exoplanets the list is relatively short. There is the radial velocity, or 'wobble' technique, which senses the motion of a star around a common center-of-mass with its planets...

March 7, 2012 — Caleb A. Scharf

Billion Year Old Seawater

As it was, and as it is, an ocean on Earth (T. Fioreze) If there is one thing our universe makes a lot of, it is water. This isn't an immediately obvious property based solely on the universal inventory of stuff...

March 5, 2012 — Caleb A. Scharf

Superluminal Neutrino Result Caused by Faulty Connection?

A data transmission problem? (Wikipedia/BigRiz) Although still awaiting full confirmation, a breaking news report in Science (and Nature , see below) indicates that the measurement of an apparently faster-than-light travel time for muon-neutrinos generated at CERN and detected at the Gran Sasso laboratory - which hit the world headlines back in September 2011 - may have been due to a problematic physical connection between a fiber-optic cable and an electronics card in a computer.The rumor is that when this connection was tightened and the signal timing through the cable re-evaluated it matched precisely the 60 nano-second discrepancy that had been attributed to possible superluminal neutrino speeds...

February 22, 2012 — Caleb A. Scharf

Nomadic Planets May Make Pit Stops

Nomadic world seeks friendly home (NASA/JPL-Caltech) The notion of what constitutes a typical planetary system has undergone some serious revision in the past twenty years.

February 16, 2012 — Caleb A. Scharf

Walk Tall, but Please Tread Softly, SpaceX

A Falcon 9 launches the Dragon spacecraft - which orbited and then reentered the atmosphere to splashdown in the Pacific in December 2010 (SpaceX/Chris Thompson) We live in interesting times...

February 13, 2012 — Caleb A. Scharf

Lake Vostok is (Almost) Breached After 20 Million Years

Satellite composite showing location of Vostok within the Antarctic continent (NASA) Two and a half miles beneath the surface of Antarctica's central Eastern ice sheet is a body of water 160 miles by 30 miles across known as Lake Vostok, after the Vostok research station above it, built by the former Soviet Union in 1957 and now operated by Russia.Even by Antarctic standards it's a brutal place, with the dubious honor of holding the record for the lowest measured temperature anywhere on the planet, a mind-if-not-body numbing -129 F or -89 C...

February 6, 2012 — Caleb A. Scharf

Astrobiology: We are the Aliens

Bacterial aliens (NASA) A funny thing happened recently on the way to Mars.A few days after the successful launch of NASA's behemoth Curiosity rover with its Mars Science Laboratory instruments on November 26th 2011, a somewhat muted piece of news came out admitting that the strict biological planetary protection rules had not been adhered to quite as everyone expected...

February 6, 2012 — Caleb A. Scharf

Aurorae from Earth, Space, and on Other Worlds

Southern aurora (aurora australis) composited with NASA imagery As we're in the midst of experiencing some particularly stormy solar weather it seems appropriate to make a quick post with some nifty auroral images and time-lapse movies (see below)...

January 25, 2012 — Caleb A. Scharf

Encounter at Dawn: Stephen Hawking, me, and an ATM

A black hole lenses the light of the Milky Way in the background (Credit: Ute Kraus amd Axel Mellinger) This weekend Stephen Hawking turns 70, an extraordinary physical accomplishment to add to an extraordinary list of physics accomplishments...

January 6, 2012 — Caleb A. Scharf
The Austere Beauty of Other Worlds

The Austere Beauty of Other Worlds

In the northern winter months we are surrounded by the stark beauty of chilled landscapes. From the darkness of the far north, broken perhaps only by starlight and the glow of aurora, to the brisk grey streets of Manhattan and its now skeletal trees with their claw-like limbs and knobbly stubs pressed to the skies, [...]..

December 30, 2011 — Caleb A. Scharf

Solstice, Periapsis, and the Hades Orbit

The Sun rising above the Arctic plain (H. D. Nygren, NOAA Corps.) As our spinning globe of rock and metal tracks its steady path around the Sun, we find ourselves crossing once again through the winter solstice, the point at which Earth's northern pole is pointed as far from our fierce stellar parent as it can be (this year at a coordinated universal time of 5.30 am on December the 22nd, almost the same as 5.30 am Greenwich Mean Time)...

December 21, 2011 — Caleb A. Scharf

A Planet on Fire

A strange chemical reaction Imagine, if you will, a planet with atmosphere, oceans, rocks and life. On this planet, most chemical reactions are either slow and geophysical, or quick and biological but very localized...

December 14, 2011 — Caleb A. Scharf
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