RAS General Meeting Recap.

This month’s speaker for the RAS, was Heather A. Knutson.  She is an assistant professor in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at the California Institute of Technology.  She is working onthe physics and chemistry of exoplanetary atmospheres, planet formation and migration, and the search for new low-mass eclipsing planetary systems.

As usual, our meetings are held at Cossentine Hall at La Sierra University.

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Dr. Knutson spoke about her research into smaller exoplanets.  Most of the exoplanets are large, like Jupiter large.  She is trying to find Earth analogous planets.

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She also spoke about some of the planets that have been discovered.

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One particular planet has 6,000 mph winds and liquid rock for clouds!  Trust me, the science works, it just seems odd.

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She also explained that instead of looking at large suns for Earth sized planets, they are starting to look as smaller suns.  It makes perfect sense.  If you can’t make the planet larger to detect, look at smaller suns and the planet gets bigger by default.

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It was also interesting to note that Kepler imaged a very, very tiny part of our galaxy.  That spot with the red arrow is as much as we have looked at to date.  There are a lot of other exoplanet missions planned, but the galaxy, and the universe, are really big.  Lots more data to come.

Remember, everyone is welcome at the meetings and you can find out about the topics by visiting www.rivastro.org.



– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +


I want one!

The new Sequoia supercomputer from IBM has become the world’s fastest computer. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory machine has 1.5 million processing cores and weighs the equivalent of 30 elephants.  Performing at a meager 16.3 quadrillion calculations per second.   When Sequoia is really firing on all cylinders, also sometime later this year, it will hit 20 petaflops per second. The way Livermore explains it, if every single person on earth worked nonstop on a calculator for an entire year, they could do the same number of calculations in 320 years that Sequoia cranks out in an hour.

I’m sure that I will soon be able to process all my astrophotos in about a minute, once I have my own.  I mean every astrophoto that I have ever taken.  For the past 10 years.  In about a minute.  I wonder if I can get a variance for the new rooms I’ll need to install this at my house….just wondering.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I See You!

Well, at least that is the hope.  Today, NASA launched the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array( NuStar) black-hole hunter into space.  As the name implies, a hunt’n for black holes we go.

NuSTAR images are expected to be “10 times crisper and a hundred times more sensitive than any we’ve had of the cosmos to date,” said Fiona Harrison, the principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology. “This will enable NuSTAR to study some of the hottest, densest, and most energetic phenomenon in the universe.”

“One of NuSTAR’s primary science goals is to study black holes (and) the extreme physics, the fascinating physics that occurs very close to the black hole where spacetime is severely distorted and particles are accelerated close to the speed of light,” Harrison said. “And also to understand how black holes are distributed throughout the universe.”

I think the coolest aspect is the use of the Pegasus XL rocket.  The Pegasus is launched from an aircraft, or more appropriately, dropped like a bomb.  Then, after a short delay, the booster rockets kick in and off to space they go.

This was the 31st launch of a Pegasus XL rocket.  Overall, Pegasus rockets have launched more than 70 satellites since 1990, with 27 successful missions in a row over the past 15 years.  They aren’t telling us what happened to the unsuccessful missions, but I am sure we can all guess:


Sometimes, I understand why NASCAR is so popular.

– Ex astris, scientia –


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JPL Open House 2012

WOW! I just got back from a day at JPL. I’ve heard from some of the volunteer’s that this year’s was the biggest event yet.  I will have some pictures as soon as I get them all into one place.  I had to use a variety of device (three in fact) to take all the pictures that I could.  I was only able to get about half way through all the exhibits and missed some of the ones that I wanted to see due to the amount of people.  It was like going to Disney or Magic Mountain.  The stuff I did get to enjoy was fantastic.  A big thank you to all the JPL volunteers that put this event on, you were outstanding!

I’ll have a more detailed report for you once I have rested awhile. It was 99 degrees F when I got back in my car.  Note to self, next year come earlier and wear a hat.

Love, love, loved this event.  If you ever get the chance I would plan on spending both days viewing all the exhibits.  Some people we talked to in line were coming back for their third trip to view the exhibits.  I must admit that I was tempted on a couple to get back in line and go around again.

Next year promises to be even better!  I can’t wait.


– Ex astris, scientia –