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Blog Posts by Amir Alexander

The Discovery of a Planet, Part 4: Clyde's Search

Amir Alexander • February 15, 2005

Since his teenage years Clyde Tombaugh had been an avid amateur astronomer and a gifted telescope builder. Based on instructions contained in an article from a boy’s Sunday school paper, he built a series of telescopes of increasing power and quality on the family farm.

The Discovery of a Planet, Part 3: Planet X

Amir Alexander • February 14, 2005

The discovery of Neptune accounted for nearly all the unexplained motions of the outer planets of the Solar System. Nevertheless, several astronomers insisted that some unexplained residual motions remained, pointing to the presence of a ninth planet beyond the orbit of Neptune.

The Discovery of a Planet, Part 2: Out of the Six-Planet World

Amir Alexander • February 13, 2005

Since humans first set their eyes to the stars, they noticed that a few of these bright objects behaved differently from the others. Whereas all the stars moved together, revolving around the Earth once every 24 hours, five appeared to move within the firmament among the other stars. Accordingly, they were named “planets,” meaning “wanderers” in Greek.

The Discovery of a Planet, Part 1: The Blinking Image

Amir Alexander • February 12, 2005

February 18, 1930, was a cloudy day at the Lowell Observatory, on top of Mars Hill in Flagstaff, Arizona. 22 year old Clyde Tombaugh was hard at work, peering through the lens of an ancient-looking brass-colored device. The instrument, known as a “blink comparator,” mounted two large photographic plates.

Descent Imager Spectral Radiometer (DISR)

Amir Alexander • January 10, 2005

The Descent Imager Spectral Radiometer crams six sub-instruments into a tiny footprint within the Huygens probe.

IBM's World Community Grid: A New SETI@home-Inspired Venture

Amir Alexander • November 24, 2004

As SETI@home has demonstrated, untold millions around the world are ready and eager to donate their computer time for the advancement of knowledge and the benefit of humankind. The story of distributed computing is only just beginning.

Scientists from Different Fields Line Up to Join the BOINC Family

Amir Alexander • August 24, 2004

BOINC stands for the “Berkeley Online Infrastructure for Network Computing.” Its purpose is to spread the credo of distributed computing beyond SETI@home, by making it easy for researchers in all fields to launch their own projects, and tap into the enormous computing capacity of personal computers around the world.

Multi-Beam Receiver Promises New Vistas for SETI Research

Amir Alexander • August 04, 2004

Faster and more regular sky surveys, at an increased sensitivity and broader bandwidth, will push the boundaries of SETI to new and unexplored territories.

Pulses, Triplets, and Gaussians: Rescoring the Reobservations

Amir Alexander • May 17, 2004

It has been more than a year since the SETI@home crew spent a hectic week at Arecibo, pointing the giant radio telescope at some of SETI's most promising targets. Much of the data collected during the reobservations has since been repackaged as work units, and sent out to users around the world for analysis.

Mars Exploration Rovers Update: Spirit Too Finds Traces of Water

Amir Alexander • March 05, 2004

Four days after scientists announced that rocks examined by the rover Opportunity in Meridiani Planum were once soaked with water, Opportunity's twin Spirit made some headline news of its own. In a press conference this morning at the Jet Propulsion laboratory in Pasadena, Dr. Ray Arvidson, Deputy Principal Investigator for the rovers, announced that Spirit had discovered the telltale signs that some amount water had once been present in Gusev Crater as well.

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