Valene M., journalist
On Nov. 4, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened to determine the nation’s scientific priorities in astronomy and astrophysics and set the course for their development over the next decade. Truly a community effort at heart, this decision is the culmination of 867 extensive research papers on various disciplines in the field, many public meetings and discussions, and several smaller panels . In accordance with tradition, the finalized objectives were to be detailed in the 7th Decadal Survey for Astronomy and Astrophysics, which arrived this year in the form of a 614-page report titled “Pathways to Discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics for the 2020s” and nicknamed “Astro 2020” . Starting in 2023, the report calls for emphasis on three specific areas of astronomy, changes in the process through which major projects are mapped out and pursued, an expansion of mid-scale programs that draw on the community, and strengthening astronomy’s foundations through a unique focus on the people that support it.
Continue reading “Astro 2020: A 2021 Summary”
Valene M., journalist
Last week on March 4th, astronomers at the CARMENES consortium announced the discovery of the exoplanet Gleis 486b, a rocky and sweltering super-Earth. It closely orbits the red dwarf star Gleis 486 at 24 light-years from Earth, making it relatively close in the grand scheme of space. Although it is 30% larger than Earth and boasts about 2.8 times more mass, it is assumed to be relatively similar to familiar rocky planets like Earth and Venus in its makeup. It is even believed to have a metallic core. In fact, with a projected surface temperature of 430 degrees Celsius, Gleis 486b bears a notable resemblance to the searing Venus, albeit with a thin and insubstantial atmosphere.
Continue reading “The Discovery of Gleis 486b and Why It Matters In The Search For Life, Habitability, and Understanding In Space”
Valene McInerney, journalist
Long ago, people would look to the night sky and observe only natural celestial bodies. Artificial lights did not blot and blur their sights, and human-made satellites did not crowd their horizons. Both of these phenomena factor into modern astronomy, but it has only been in the past 19 months that satellites have become a threat to astronomical observation. With the recent surge in satellite launches and the construction of satellite mega-constellations, hobbyists and professional astronomers alike are witnessing what can be a dangerous disruption and distortion of their cosmic viewing.
Continue reading “Satellite Mega-Constellations, Hampered Science, and a Cluttered Orbit”