Thursday, October 25, 2012

Poetry: Isildur's Bane

I have had no time to write or even think about my blog in the past few weeks thanks to lots of work deadlines and a bit of traveling. So, to fill up time, I present you with another old poem I wrote. This one recounts the story of Isildur, son of Elendir, and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. It is not strictly canon in the Lord of the Rings universe, but that's alright: it's just meant for fun.

As before, I'm not a poet so forgive me if the meter, rhyme, or whatever is not quite right.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Four Stars and One Planet

Artist depiction of PH1. Credit: Ron Miller

A really cool new planet discovery has been announced today and I wanted to mention it here for those who haven't heard about it yet.
You may recall the Kepler Space Telescope has been starring at a patch of sky to look for periodic dips in the light of distant stars. Such dips can be caused when planets orbiting those stars transit in front of the star (just like our own Venus transit a few months back). There are so many stars to look through, though, that there is a public program available for anyone interested to look at the data. That's right: ordinary people can look at scientific data and help find planets. This Planet Hunters program is ongoing and has already discovered several planets.
Today, a really cool planet has been discovered by these citizen scientists. Read on to learn more.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Exoplanet Visualizations

If you're interested in astronomy, you're probably aware that we know of hundreds of extrasolar planets -- planets outside our solar system -- and that we have thousands of candidate planets. Many of these new candidates come from NASA's Kepler mission, which looked at the dimming of light when a planet passes in front of another star. By the current count, there are over 2000 such objects identified.

Many people have come up with clever ways to display these planets in a way that's fun and easy to understand. In this post I've gathered some of my favorites (mostly videos) and will walk you through what they show. Click through to check them out!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Year as a Postdoc Astronomer in Chile

As of October, I have now spent one year as an astronomy postdoctoral researcher straight out of graduate school. It has been a great year, though with plenty of ups and downs. I figure I should write down my thoughts about this experience. I have both good things and bad things to say, but I try to be honest, fair, and positive throughout. This may be of interest to curious grad students, or anyone really, especially if they have wondered about pursuing a postdoc or are just interested in astronomy in Chile. One thing to keep in mind is that this is an individual, personal experience and your own story or circumstances may be quite different. It's obviously difficult to approach this critically and unbiasedly, but here goes nothing...