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Texas fireball remnants recovered? February 19, 2009

Posted by Sarah in science.
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ABC News reports that two astronomers from the University of North Texas have found what they think are the remnants of the giant fireball that streaked across the sky over the state last Sunday. While the flaming object initially sparked fears of space debris from the recent collision of two satellites crashing to Earth, it soon became clear that this fireball was moving too fast to be anything other than a meteor, albeit a chunky one causing many rattled windows. Apparently the small remnants have been taken to a lab for further study. 


The Waco Tribune-Herald has the far more entertaining human angle, with some pictures too. It seems like Sunday’s meteorite sparked a statewide rock-hunt by an amusing medley of meteorite bounty hunters – there’s Karl the Texan Frankfurter, Michael  “the Russians beat us to it” Farmer from Arizona, the unidentified clever Russian who got there first and his American sidekick, decidedly suspect for residing in Mexico. Farmer reckons the state will soon be overrun with meteorite hunters all looking for a piece of the pie. “These objects are worth money,” he told a reporter.

Coincidentally, I’ll be spending the next month in Austin, Texas, and who knows, I might just go hunt for some meteorites. It looks like fun.

If you want some actual information, Daniel has it here.

Image credit: Rod Aydelotte

Space Debris over Texas (or not) February 15, 2009

Posted by Sarah in science.
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The internet is all atwitter over the sighting of a fireball over the city of Austin, Texas, and numerous other similar sightings throughout the state(?). Speculation abounds that it may have been debris from the this week’s high-speed collision of two satellites in space, causing both to shatter to pieces – although the Federal Aviation Authority has not been able to confirm. After Twitter, blogs and local news, the bigger papers like the New York Times have picked up on the story too, although information so far appears to be sketchy and speculative. In any case I hope no one has been injured. Here’s a quick bunch of links for more info:


Super-earth confirmed, first of many? February 3, 2009

Posted by Sarah in science.
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Today with much to-do and under heavy embargoes, scientists have announced the discovery of an extrasolar planet with a mass diameter of just 1.7 times that of the Earth. That’s very very small. With a mass of It whizzes around its host star, Exo-7, in around 20 hours and with a temperature of over 1,000 degrees, is incredibly hot. Using data from the satellite CoRoT (Convection Rotation and planetray Transits), the German-led French-led team of scientists detected the minute dip in the light coming from the host star from the planet passing in front of it. The discovery was confirmed with observations at a number of ground-based observatories, including VLT, the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope, McDonald Observatory.

In case you hadn’t noticed: exoplanet news is coming hard and fast. Every year since 1995, when Mayor & Queloz reported the discovery of 51 Peg b, has seen a number of “major breakthroughs” (see here, here, and many more) in the detection and characterisation of planets around other stars in our Galaxy.  Scientists have pushed the boundaries of our knowledge to a massive extent, and the rapid progress is just fantastic. But brace yourself for more.


Don’t Mess with Texas October 20, 2008

Posted by Sarah in me.
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I’ve been a bit quiet the last few days and the reason for that is that I travelled across the Atlantic for an extended work visit. For the next month I’ll be working at UT Austin, where there is an excellent instrumentation group. I’ll be giving a talk on some of my work in a couple of weeks’ time.

First impressions of Austin are pretty nice. The weather at the moment is like that perfect summer’s day that all Northern Europeans dream about,  that only comes along maybe one day of the year, if we’re lucky. Only it’s like that every single day here at this time of year. Nice! The colour of choice here is burnt orange, and LOTS of it. And undergraduates look just as young here as back in Europe.

More soon!