Friday, April 26, 2013

2011 HM₁₀₂: A new companion for Neptune

This month my latest paper made it to print in the Astronomical Journal. It's a short piece that describes a serendipitous discovery that my collaborators and I made while searching for a distant Kuiper Belt Object for the New Horizons spacecraft to visit after its 2015 Pluto flyby. Last October, at the annual American Astronomical Society Division of Planetary Sciences meeting, I gave a talk about this neat little object we discovered. Now that the paper is out, I thought it might be interesting and fun to assemble a blog post around the slides I prepared for that talk. So without further ado, I give you:

So, what kind of serendipitous discovery did we make? We found a Neptune Trojan, now called 2011 HM102! And it's not just any Neptune Trojan: it makes a list of superlatives. It's the largest trailing Trojan known in the entire Solar System, it's the most inclined Neptune Trojan known, and (as of right now) it is the closest known object of any kind to the New Horizons spacecraft! Read on to learn about how we found 2011 HM102 and what we have learned about this remarkable little world.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Flying from Kepler-62 e to Kepler-62 f

Today NASA announced the discovery of two potentially-habitable planets orbiting a single star. The star is designated Kepler-62, and these two planets are referred to by their place in the five-planet system - e is planet four and f is planet five (a is reserved for the host star).

These planets are both quite small - 1.4 and 1.6 times the radius of the Earth, respectively. In addition, they're both located at relatively comfortable distances from their host star. Depending on what their atmospheres are like, they could potentially host conditions on their surfaces that are amenable to life.

But two planets in (or near) a single star's habitable zone? That made me wonder - if a civilization arose on one of the two planets, how difficult would it be for them to visit the other planet?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Day 30: Until next time.

Thirty days written:
Worlds in words with friends in prose
under spring skies.


Day 29: Challenge

not lost.
simply unseen.
out in the deep star-fields
slow-plying, so come, look again:
find me.


Day 28: Zeroth Order

scratch a few 
marks on a page
trace the big picture
in broad strokes
with small lines

nevermind the human
that fills each dt
no matter how minute

they fall out trivially
in the end