Astronomy 111: the Solar system and its origin
University of Rochester, fall semester 2011



Animations by Robert Hurt, SSC.

Features of current interest

Dawn and Vesta Dawn enters its low-altitude mapping orbit around 4 Vesta, as you have considered on Midterm Exam 1, problem 5.  See, in particular, part c of that problem to find out why it took so long to get there from its high-altitude orbit. Meanwhile, APOD features some nice pictures of nearer-by pieces of Vesta. (12-13-2011)
Kepler 22b Kepler 22b, only 2.4 times larger in diameter than Earth, is confirmed clearly to lie within the habitable zone around its star, and the Kepler team adds 1094 new objects to its list of exoplanet candidates. (12-05-2011)
Habitable zone And, just in time for our week-long discussion of exoplanets, a front-page NY Times article on the hunt for planets lying in the habitable zones around their stars. (12-03-2011)
MSL launch Bon voyage to the Mars Science Laboratory and its rover, Curiosity. (11-26-2011)
exoplanets The number of known extrasolar planets passes 700. (11-23-2011)
2005 YU 55 Report from the recent meeting of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, on what to do when a dangerous Earth-Asteroid collision appears probable. (11-18-2011)
Just in time for our discussion of the moons of Saturn: a nice review of Cassini results on Enceladus and the possibility of a liquid water ocean on this moon. (11-14-2011)
Earth has a rare close encounter with an "aircraft-carrier-size" asteroid this week. (11-07-2011)
Rich Muller, a prominent physicist formerly skeptical about global warming, is back in the news with more results which agree with those of the vast majority of the earth-science community. And, sure enough, Fox News has turned on him. (10-31-2011)
If your theory's key prediction is not supported by experiment, you should consider abandoning it. If your theory is a three-time loser and has cost your adherents hundreds of millions of dollars... (10-21-2011)
The youngest exoplanet imaged so far: a roughly 1 Myr-old infant giant planet, nestled in the gap it has carved in the disk around LkCa 15 in Taurus. (10-20-2011)
Lots of cold water vapor detected in the outer parts of a 10 Myr-old planet-forming disk. (10-20-2011)
The Nice model, and its originator Alessandro Morbidelli, on how Uranus got its tilt. (10-07-2011)
Most comets have proven to have heavy-water content unlike that of Earth's ocean. 103P/Hartley 2 is first one that comes close to Earthly abundances, suggesting that at least one family of comets potentially contributed significantly to Earth's water. (10-07-2011)
ESA's Venus Express satellite has found an ozone layer in our sister planet's atmosphere. It's tiny compared to ours, but it clearly was not biogenic like ours is. (10-06-2011)
AST 111 Classic. A prominent global-warming skeptic reduces the data his way, and gets the same result everybody else got: the Earth is warming. Perhaps the Koch brothers should have gone with their instincts not to fund research at Berkeley... (4 April 2011)
Tatooine? Kepler finds a planet in orbit around a binary star, as life imitates Star Wars. (9-15-2011)
At least part of one committee of one house of Congress is not in the mood to make the cancellation of JWST stick. (9-14-2011)
In the final use of my favorite launch pad -- Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Pad 17B -- the twin satellites comprising the GRAIL mission were successfully launched, and are off to make high-precision measurements of the Moon's moment of inertia and thereby  to constrain models of the Moon's interior. (9-10-2011)
How a jitter in the transit of one planet across the face of its host star can reveal the presence of another planet. (9-8-2011)
Phyllosilicates in asteroids and comets preserve much of the Solar system's primordial water, but lack of phyllosilicates on Mars can be taken as evidence of an ancient Martian ocean? (8-28-2011)
It's about the same mass as Jupiter, most likely crystalline and mostly carbon, and it orbits a millisecond pulsar: not really a planet but an interesting stellar corpse in orbit around another interesting stellar corpse. (8-25-2011)
Pinning down the Moon's age: arguments about anorthosites, zircons, and radiometric chronometers. (8-23-2011)
Astronomy Picture of the Day: Mees sky: SPS: URAC:


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