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Down to Earth With: Marc Kuchner

Marc Kuchner likes to joke that when he feels sociable at a party, he tells fellow guests that he is an astronomer. But when he wants to be left alone, he says, he tells them he is an astrophysicist. At NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., Kuchner spends his time thinking about planets outside the solar system and looking for ways to better see them — and he’s devoted some of his time to working on the Terrestrial Planet Finder, a proposed NASA mission to look for and image Earth-like exoplanets. For his work on improving the detection and understanding of exoplanets, SPIE, an international society that advances light-based research, awarded him the group’s Early Career Achievement Award earlier this year.

23 May 2009

Down to Earth With: Maria Zuber

In 2011, a pair of orbiters will launch for the moon, making some of the most exact measurements yet of our satellite. Luckily for the orbiters, they’ll have Maria Zuber at the helm. A geophysicist at MIT, Zuber was recently named one of “America’s Best Leaders” last year by U.S. News & World Report for her role in establishing women in high-level science. The moon orbiters alone will make her one of the first women to lead a NASA robotic space mission. Recently, Zuber talked with EARTH reporter Brian Fisher Johnson about the mission, leadership and saving the economy.

23 Mar 2009

Shell tectonics may explain Mars mysteries

Mars may be mythologically known as the Red Planet, but its topography can be as captivating as its celestial glow. Several striking features stand out with only a glance at a topographic map of Mars: the odd distribution of land on its surface and the equatorial string of giant volcanoes known as the Tharsis Rise. Since Mars has no plate tectonics, how these unique features formed has been a longstanding mystery.

16 Jan 2009

Phoenix takes a bow

Blogging on EARTH

One of the NASA’s most successful and widely publicized missions has ended.

On Monday, NASA scientists declared that the Phoenix Lander, a solar-powered, stationary robot laboratory designed to explore the habitability of the Red Planet, had stopped communications with Earth.

11 Nov 2008

Electrical failure shuts collider down for the winter

Well, it had a short run: Only nine days after going online Sept. 10, CERN's Large Hadron Collider has already gone south for the winter, due to an electrical failure Friday. The LHC was always scheduled for winter shutdown and maintenance, due to the costs of fuel, but that wasn't supposed to happen until the end of November. Now, CERN says, the necessary inspections and repairs will likely not be completed much before that scheduled shutdown date.

24 Sep 2008

Energy's the hot topic this week on the Hill

UPDATE: The House energy bill, which will allow offshore drilling and gives states incentives by sharing the revenues from drilling leases with them, passed yesterday (Sept. 16). The Senate bill is still pending, but a vote is likely sometime this week.

 

16 Sep 2008

The Big Turn-On

Tuesday, Sept. 9, 11:30 a.m. EDT — Fourteen years in the making, the $8 billion Large Hadron Collider comes online Wednesday at last (although, when you think about it, that's not really that long to wait for a machine that may reveal some of the mysteries of the universe).

The switch-on is provoking strong public reaction: Scientists are excited and eager to see what the LHC can do; alarmists are worried about the end of the world. And one person made a funny rap.

09 Sep 2008

Of molten iron and magnetism

Since 1999, the German satellite CHAMP (CHAllenging Mini-satellite Payload) has swirled around Earth, keeping watch as the planet’s magnetic field waxes and wanes over time. CHAMP’s continuous measurements of Earth’s field have created a finely detailed picture of how the field changes both in space and in time — and by extension, how the movement of the molten iron in Earth’s outer core ebbs and flows. And thanks to these data, researchers report, they can now track even small-scale, rapid fluctuations in the field’s strength around the planet.

28 Aug 2008

Spot-free sun: Is that normal?

For the past few years, astronomers and scientists have been looking up at a sun that is, more often than not, rather blank. Almost too blank. That is, the sun has been relatively free of the dark patches, called “sunspots,” that appear within 30 degrees of the sun’s equator and travel across the surface. Although low sunspot counts are normal in a typical sunspot cycle, this period has gone on longer than usual, scientists noted at an international solar conference on “Solar Variability, Earth’s Climate and the Space Environment” held in early June at Montana State University in Bozeman.

28 Aug 2008

Beads of water on the moon

During the Apollo missions, NASA astronauts shoveled, bagged and sent back to Earth close to 400 kilograms of lunar rocks and soil. But researchers studying these samples never found water. Now, after decades of coming up dry, scientists have found evidence that the moon’s interior once held — and perhaps still holds — water.

28 Aug 2008

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