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Friday, February 28, 2014

Another Personal Blog, Yo...

So early this morning, I texted Nancy to drive safely to work since a strong winter storm will be causing intense rain here in Southern California this weekend. An hour after I messaged her, Nancy texted back...wishing me a safe drive to work as well (despite the fact my work for today was canceled a few days earlier due to the predicted bad weather). And about a half hour after that, Nancy called me on my cellphone—wanting to share an update with me about this college course she wanted to drop because the teacher was an unprofessional douche. (We discussed this last week.) Well not only did Nancy drop the class today, but she told me that she was planning to report the teacher to the school (the college dean, to be exact) next week. I told Nancy to let me know what happens with this...hopefully she'll remember to do so.

Anyways, the gist of this entry is that Nancy once again took our friendship up a notch by striking a phone conversation with me for the very first time. Much as how me texting her last week ended up with us booking the same job together the following day (leading to some dude asking me if I was Nancy's husband), sending her a text this morning led to us finally talking on the phone since Nancy gave me her number last summer. Of course, today's call ended on an amusing note... Nancy told me that she arrived at work and (I think) bid me goodbye—despite the fact she never hung up her phone since I could hear her moving things around inside her car in the background. (I hung up first.) Don't know if Nancy actually said bye to me or to hang on, since she has a strong but beautiful accent when she talks (Nancy is Middle Eastern...don't know if I mentioned that before). Oh well. All I can say is, hopefully this won't be the first and only phone conversation that we have together. If our last two SMS (Short Message Service for the uninitiated) chats are any indication, something more awesome will take place the next time I text Nancy. Cross my fingers.

A satellite image showing a strong winter storm that's hitting Southern California this weekend.
NASA / NOAA

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Soooo Close to Pluto...

The green line marks the path traveled by the New Horizons spacecraft as of 9:00 AM, Pacific Standard Time, on February 27, 2014.  It is 2.7 billion miles from Earth.
ABOVE: The green line marks the path traveled by the New Horizons spacecraft as of
9:00 AM, Pacific Standard Time, on February 27, 2014. It is 2.7 billion miles from Earth.
Click
here to view the official webpage showing where New Horizons is in space.
(AU stands for Astronomical Units, in case you're wondering.)


New Horizons Reaches the Final 4 (AU) - Press Release

New Horizons sailed past another milepost today when the NASA spacecraft moved to within four astronomical units (AU) of Pluto – which is less than four times the distance between the Earth and the sun, or about 371 million miles (598 million kilometers).

"We're as close to the Pluto system now as Earth ever gets to Jupiter, a first for any spacecraft," says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo. "And hold on to your hat, it just gets more and more exciting from here."

Since launch on January 19, 2006, New Horizons has covered nearly 2.89 billion miles (4.62 billion kilometers). It makes a temporal connection with one NASA’s legendary deep-space explorers this summer when it crosses the orbit of Neptune on Aug. 25 — exactly 25 years after Voyager 2 made its historic flight past that giant planet. When New Horizons arrives at Pluto on July 14, 2015, it will have traveled farther than any spacecraft ever has to reconnoiter its prime target.

Source: New Horizons Website

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An artist's concept of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft approaching Pluto.
NASA

NEW HORIZONS Blog Entries Archive:

September 26, 2005
December 19, 2005
January 7, 2006
January 17, 2006
January 19, 2006
April 12, 2006
June 15, 2006
February 27, 2007
October 22, 2007
June 8, 2008
October 23, 2008
March 18, 2011
January 20, 2012
July 13, 2012
January 19, 2013
October 31, 2013
December 31, 2013
February 27, 2014

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

So How Many Of These Planets Are Controlled By The Galactic Empire?

An artist's concept of so-called multiple-transiting planet systems, many of which have been discovered by NASA's Kepler spacecraft.
NASA

NASA's Kepler Mission Announces a Planet Bonanza, 715 New Worlds (Press Release)

NASA's Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly-verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system.

Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system.

"The Kepler team continues to amaze and excite us with their planet hunting results," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "That these new planets and solar systems look somewhat like our own, portends a great future when we have the James Webb Space Telescope in space to characterize the new worlds."

Since the discovery of the first planets outside our solar system roughly two decades ago, verification has been a laborious planet-by-planet process. Now, scientists have a statistical technique that can be applied to many planets at once when they are found in systems that harbor more than one planet around the same star.

To verify this bounty of planets, a research team co-led by Jack Lissauer, planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., analyzed stars with more than one potential planet, all of which were detected in the first two years of Kepler's observations -- May 2009 to March 2011.

The research team used a technique called verification by multiplicity, which relies in part on the logic of probability. Kepler observes 150,000 stars, and has found a few thousand of those to have planet candidates. If the candidates were randomly distributed among Kepler's stars, only a handful would have more than one planet candidate. However, Kepler observed hundreds of stars that have multiple planet candidates. Through a careful study of this sample, these 715 new planets were verified.

This method can be likened to the behavior we know of lions and lionesses. In our imaginary savannah, the lions are the Kepler stars and the lionesses are the planet candidates. The lionesses would sometimes be observed grouped together whereas lions tend to roam on their own. If you see two lions it could be a lion and a lioness or it could be two lions. But if more than two large felines are gathered, then it is very likely to be a lion and his pride. Thus, through multiplicity the lioness can be reliably identified in much the same way multiple planet candidates can be found around the same star.

"Four years ago, Kepler began a string of announcements of first hundreds, then thousands, of planet candidates --but they were only candidate worlds," said Lissauer. "We've now developed a process to verify multiple planet candidates in bulk to deliver planets wholesale, and have used it to unveil a veritable bonanza of new worlds."

These multiple-planet systems are fertile grounds for studying individual planets and the configuration of planetary neighborhoods. This provides clues to planet formation. Four of these new planets are less than 2.5 times the size of Earth and orbit in their sun's habitable zone, defined as the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet may be suitable for life-giving liquid water.

One of these new habitable zone planets, called Kepler-296f, orbits a star half the size and 5 percent as bright as our sun. Kepler-296f is twice the size of Earth, but scientists do not know whether the planet is a gaseous world, with a thick hydrogen-helium envelope, or it is a water world surrounded by a deep ocean.

"From this study we learn planets in these multi-systems are small and their orbits are flat and circular -- resembling pancakes -- not your classical view of an atom," said Jason Rowe, research scientist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., and co-leader of the research. "The more we explore the more we find familiar traces of ourselves amongst the stars that remind us of home."

This latest discovery brings the confirmed count of planets outside our solar system to nearly 1,700. As we continue to reach toward the stars, each discovery brings us one step closer to a more accurate understanding of our place in the galaxy.

Launched in March 2009, Kepler is the first NASA mission to find potentially habitable Earth-size planets. Discoveries include more than 3,600 planet candidates, of which 961 have been verified as bona-fide worlds.

The findings papers will be published March 10 in The Astrophysical Journal and are available for download at:

http://www.nasa.gov/ames/kepler/digital-press-kit-kepler-planet-bonanza

Ames is responsible for the Kepler mission concept, ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., developed the Kepler flight system and supports mission operations with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore archives, hosts and distributes Kepler science data. Kepler is NASA's 10th Discovery Mission and was funded by the agency's Science Mission Directorate.

Source: NASA.Gov

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A computer-generated image of the Kepler telescope in space.
NASA

Sunday, February 23, 2014

U2's "Invisible"...

Performing in front of a crowd of 1,500 people in Santa Monica, California, Bono sings the new U2 song, 'Invisible.'

For those of you who didn't see the brief promo for this music video during the Denver Broncos' ass whuppin' in Super Bowl XLVIII, just thought I'd post the video here. This is such an awesome song... Didn't mind dealing with iTunes' stupid password system to download "Invisible" after it officially became available online earlier this month.

A free T-shirt that I got for working on the music video for the new U2 song 'Invisible,' on January 8-9, 2014.

By the way, I pointed out in my previous Blog entry that I was going to mention the first gig that Nancy and I worked on together for this year. Well— This music video is it! Under extremely tight security, U2 performed this song in front of 1,500 extras over a 3-day period from January 8-10...inside an aircraft hangar at Santa Monica Airport in Southern California. Every time Bono appeared on set to shoot a take, the crowd broke out in applause and cheers—rightfully so—since he was a total badass as he strutted onto the stage. When the cameras weren't rolling, the assistant directors were very strict in having us not turn on those flashlights that you see being waved towards the end of the music video...since there were only so many spare batteries to hand out for 1,000-plus background actors in attendance. But as you can see from the music video, everything turned out all right—though I'm wondering if I could've actually spotted myself had the footage not been in black and white!

A free T-shirt that I got for working on the music video for the new U2 song 'Invisible,' on January 8-9, 2014.

In regards to Nancy, we both worked on the first two days of the video shoot. The most memorable moments between us took place on this gig...since everyone's cellphones had to be left behind in our cars at crew parking, which meant that background actors (surprise, surprise) actually had to socialize with each other to kill time! In my case with Nancy, it meant playing card games back in holding and um, flirting while we were on set. ("Your shoes are hurting your feet, Nancy? Here— Let me massage 'em for ya...") Oh, and the paycheck that I got in the mail for this video a few weeks later was not too shabby, either.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Best Question of the Week...

"Are you her husband?" Yep, this is the inquiry that was asked of me when I worked with Nancy again yesterday. Thursday marked the second gig we worked together this year (the first gig just might be mentioned in the next entry), and as usual, Nancy and I got along really well (even though the day hit some rough spots when she constantly had to walk away because she kept getting phone calls...or our conversation was interrupted by a meddling co-worker who went out of her way to sit with us). So well, in fact, that the reason why Nancy and I worked together last night in the first place was because she wanted us to.

On Wednesday, Nancy and I had a nice little text conversation that started off with me telling her about a job assignment that starts next week and continues through early March. The conversation then went on to me finding out that she was currently taking classes at a college in Orange County (California), and then shifted to her asking me if I was working the following day (yesterday). Nancy said that she already submitted for the gig that we ended up working yesterday, while I told her I had the day off since I wasn't scheduled for anything (I use a booking service for my job), and that I was available to work today—err, Friday. Nancy then texted back with "Oh OK, I thought maybe we can try to book the same thing lol." And with that, I promptly called the agency that booked Thursday's assignment to submit myself as well. About an hour later, I was officially in position to see Nancy's beautiful face at work the next day.

It was about half an hour after I checked in at work on Thursday that Nancy showed up to say hi to me. She had a different call time from mine (Nancy arrived at 9:00 AM, I arrived at 11:30 AM), but it was clearly obvious that Nancy waited for me to show up since she was the only person from the 9 AM group to head back to the holding area where I was at. (We knew each other's call time through a taped message that we had to listen to on Wednesday night for our work details.) Nancy and I hugged and then sat next to each other, as usual, and the day continued with us talking about such things as a 5K run that she was planning to attend in Orange County this weekend...and whether or not she should drop one of her classes because the teacher was a shady douche. As mentioned in the first paragraph, our encounter hit rough spots when she had to walk out of the room (during lunch) to take a phone call by a college classmate to discuss whether or not she should drop the aforementioned course, and some lady who Nancy knew quickly wore out her welcome (at least with me) when she lingered at our spot for far too long after saying hi. Apart from this, the day was about to conclude on a memorable note. Time to get to the good part...

As the day was about to come to an end, Nancy and the rest of her 9 AM group were among the first people to finish work early. Nancy muttered "s**t" to herself after the supervisor entered the room to announce that her group could go home...which you think would be weird since Nancy was usually eager to head back to her car as soon as our assignments were finished. But seeing as how it was Nancy who was responsible for us making arrangements to be co-workers for the day, it's safe to say that she didn't want to leave if I had to stay behind. Nancy took time in packing her things before we parted ways, which would lead to another co-worker who Nancy knew walking up to us to ask the question that is proudly stated at the opening of this Blog entry.

Nancy was about to bid farewell to me when some African American guy walked up to us to say hi. Right before awkwardly asking Nancy if they could take a photo together since they "might not see each other again" (to paraphrase that dude), which Nancy promptly said no to, the guy turned to me and asked if I was her husband. Nancy and I both started to laugh...but in a good way. For those of you who watch the hit CBS TV show The Big Bang Theory, this moment was akin to a Season 1 episode (titled "The Luminous Fish Effect") where Sheldon Cooper's mom, Mary, visits him at his apartment in Pasadena, California. In one living room scene, Leonard and Penny are sitting nearby when Mary—who was chatting with Howard and Raj (Sheldon was holed up in his bedroom)—turns to Leonard and Penny and mentions that they look like a cute couple. Leonard and Penny laugh as they turn to look at each other...trying in vain to maintain that they're just neighbors. (I myself commented to that guy that Nancy and I were just "background buddies.") Mary then turns to Howard and asks him if she struck a chord with Sheldon's roommate and their beautiful next-door neighbor, to which Howard quickly responds with "Oh yea." This is how the moment definitely played out when I was asked that question.

Despite the fact that Nancy didn't really like that guy—since he's obese, apparently had bad B.O. and was annoying—I had to give him props for asking me if I was Nancy's spouse. (FYI, Nancy is actually engaged to another man...but let's overlook that as this entry would then completely make me look like a friggin' homewrecker.) This was the first time that an outside observer actually pointed out to Nancy and me that we could be a couple...which explains why everyone else at work (except people we know such as this dude and that annoying lady mentioned earlier) tended to leave us alone when we're together. Clearly, Nancy wasn't repulsed by the idea of me being her spouse...since she's the one from the very beginning of our friendship who was a bit more flirtatious than I was and would say things that kind of implied that she was sizing me up to see if I was marriage material. Nancy also showed that she wasn't taken aback at that question by having me walk with her out of the holding area so we could be alone before she gave me an emphatic hug. (Nancy didn't want that other guy to make up for his inability to get a photo with her by trying to embrace her as well.) Nancy then walked to the parking lot as I went back to the holding area—in a pretty good mood since today's encounter concluded on such a high note.

What I want to know is, how much did Nancy think about that question while she was driving home? Was she still moved by it? Or did she forget about that question the minute she entered her car and left? If not—did Nancy think about it this morning? As mentioned earlier in this entry, it was she who took the initiative to have us see each other in person (in fact, Wednesday's phone conversation was the first time Nancy and I used text messages to arrange to hang out together...even though it was hanging out at work and not on a date). So it's definitely not hard to believe that whatever compels Nancy to want to be around me was reinforced by an outsider's comment that we could one day be an item. And when the day comes that I have the financial resources to afford it, Nancy will have a nice diamond-studded engagement ring on her finger that I gave to her. One can only dream, right?

Leonard and Penny turn to look at each other after Mary Cooper (visible near the left of frame) tells them that they make a cute couple in THE BIG BANG THEORY.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Quotes of the Day...

“I loved her but she didn't love me back. I tried my best but in the end she treated me like the rest. Now I'm here all alone wondering where I went wrong. Just dreaming what could have been if she was still around.”

-― Mahmoud El Hallab


“I always remember those little moments I had with you. They might not have meant anything to you but to me, memories like those are meant to forever last in my heart.”

-― Mahmoud El Hallab


“When you lose someone that means a lot to you, you lose a part of you.”

-― Mahmoud El Hallab


“I still remember the days you were here with me. We were so happy I didn't think it would ever end but now you're gone and you left me here all by myself. You moved on and forgot about me but I'm still here holding on to our memories, hoping someday you'll come back. I know eventually I'll have to move on and forget about you like you forgot about me but I just can't move on because I'm still in love with you.”

-― Mahmoud El Hallab


“I honestly can't take this anymore. I just can't stand it seeing you with him any longer. I tried to be strong, I tried to let you go but I guess I'm just fooling myself because baby I'm still in love with you.”

-― Mahmoud El Hallab


“In the end, every single moment with you was worth it.”

-― Mahmoud El Hallab

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Robotech...

A Valkyrie fighter toy in Gerwalk mode from ROBOTECH.

Just thought I'd post these cool images that I stumbled upon online of the VF-1 Valkyrie (a.k.a. Veritech) fighter...the F-14 Tomcat-type aircraft that can transform into a giant robot in the classic Japanese anime series Robotech. Supposedly, a live-action Robotech film is in development at Warner Bros.—though I'm hoping it'll stay truer to the classic 1980s cartoon than say, Michael Bay's take on Transformers (not that I'm complaining about Transformers...looking forward to Age of Extinction this June). Either the F-14 reference will remain intact for the Veritech fighters on the big screen, or they'll be updated to look like the F-35 Lightning II or the F-22 Raptor. I'm cool with either.

An illustration of an airborne Valkyrie fighter, a.k.a. 'Skull Leader,' from ROBOTECH.

The VF-1 Skull Leader with a fellow Valkyrie fighter from ROBOTECH.

An illustration of Skull Leader in Gerwalk mode from ROBOTECH.

An illustration of a space-borne Skull Leader, encased in armor, from ROBOTECH.

An armored Skull Leader model in Battroid mode from ROBOTECH.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Wilshire Grand Center...

A composite image showing the Wilshire Grand Center in downtown Los Angeles.

With New York City's 1 World Trade Center (1 WTC) set to open to the public by the end of this year, another skyscraper whose construction to look forward to will only be located about 30 miles from where I live here in SoCal. Known as the Wilshire Grand Center, this tower will be 1,100-feet (340 meters) tall...much higher than the U.S. Bank Tower [which has a height of 1,018 feet (310 meters)], currently the tallest building in Los Angeles as well as west of the Mississippi River [the 1 WTC, by comparison, is the highest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere at 1,776-feet (541 meters) tall]. The Wilshire Grand Center just enjoyed the Guinness World Record-setting concrete pour of its foundation this weekend (it took 20 hours for 2,100 truckloads of cement to stream into the foundation, which required 21,200 cubic yards of concrete to fill the tower's base).

USC's marching band kicks off a Guinness Record-setting concrete pour at the Wilshire Grand Center's construction site in downtown Los Angeles, on February 15, 2014.
Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

The Wilshire Grand Center will open in 2017...with this 73-story structure serving as a luxury hotel, retail center and office complex for Angelenos to visit and work at. That's cool.

Another composite image showing the Wilshire Grand Center in downtown Los Angeles.
Rios Clementi Hale Studios

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day, Everyone!

Here's an image to make your evening more pleasant and memorable... (I stumbled upon this on Facebook.)


A feel-good pic for Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Road Traveled...

Just thought I'd post this cool photo taken by the Curiosity rover's navigation camera as she drove over a couple of Martian dunes known as the Dingo Gap last week. This image was shot on February 6, with the six-wheeled robot having driven a total of 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) across Gale Crater since arriving there in 2012. Curiosity continues to make her way towards her main science destination, Mount Sharp...which she should hopefully reach by the end of this year.

At Gale Crater on Mars, NASA's Curiosity rover drove over a series of dunes known as the Dingo Gap...on February 6, 2014.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Beauty of GoPro...

An animated GIF of Felix Baumgartner's 2012 space jump.
Red Bull / GoPro

For those of you who haven't seen this video yet, check out this cool footage showing Felix Baumgartner's space jump as it was seen from various GoPro cameras strapped to his flight suit in October of 2012. Seeing as how a snippet of this video was featured in an ad during this year's Super Bowl, it's clearly obvious that GoPro and Red Bull before it are milking (rightly so) the huge PR opportunity that came with Baumgartner successfully pulling off this feat. Gotta love GoPro in general... I wish I had more than two of these cameras strapped to my jumpsuit when I did the HALO jump last April. It's all good.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Sleepy Hollow...

Posing with SLEEPY HOLLOW's Katia Winter at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium, on February 9, 2014.

Earlier today, I went to a sci-fi and comic book convention at L.A.'s Shrine Auditorium to attend an autograph signing by Katia Winter...who plays Katrina Crane on the hit FOX TV show Sleepy Hollow. The last time I went to this convention was a little over six years ago—when Summer Glau and her fellow cast members showed up to promote FOX's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (which opened to huge ratings but would only live on to see a total of two seasons on television). The cast of the latest Power Rangers series (not the one that I blogged about last December) was also on-hand to meet fans at Shrine this afternoon, but I only cared about meeting Ms. Winter. Lookin' forward to seeing Sleepy Hollow return this fall! In the meantime, I'll just have to make do with those other awesome FOX shows The Following, Almost Human and—holy cow, I CAN'T WAIT—this May's triumphant return of Jack Bauer in 24: Live Another Day. Carry on.

My autograph by SLEEPY HOLLOW's Katia Winter.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Our Pale Blue Dot Above Mars...

The Earth and its Moon as seen from the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars...on January 31, 2014.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / MSSS / TAMU

NASA Mars Rover Curiosity Sees 'Evening Star' Earth (Press Release)

The rover's view of its original home planet even includes our moon, just below Earth.

The images, taken about 80 minutes after sunset during the rover's 529th Martian day (Jan. 31, 2014) are available at http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA17936 for a broad scene of the evening sky, and at http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA17935 for a zoomed-in view of Earth and the moon.

The distance between Earth and Mars when Curiosity took the photo was about 99 million miles (160 million kilometers).

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity to assess ancient habitable environments and major changes in Martian environmental conditions. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, built the rover and manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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The Earth and its Moon as seen from the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars...on January 31, 2014.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / MSSS / TAMU

The Earth and its Moon as seen from the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars...on January 31, 2014.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / MSSS / TAMU

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Kepler Update...

An infographic depicting the Kepler-413b star system.
NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI)

Kepler Finds a Very Wobbly Planet (Press Release)

Imagine living on a planet with seasons so erratic you would hardly know whether to wear Bermuda shorts or a heavy overcoat. That is the situation on a weird, wobbly world found by NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope.

The planet, designated Kepler-413b, precesses, or wobbles, wildly on its spin axis, much like a child's top. The tilt of the planet's spin axis can vary by as much as 30 degrees over 11 years, leading to rapid and erratic changes in seasons. In contrast, Earth's rotational precession is 23.5 degrees over 26,000 years. Researchers are amazed that this far-off planet is precessing on a human timescale.

Kepler 413-b is located 2,300 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. It circles a close pair of orange and red dwarf stars every 66 days. The planet's orbit around the binary stars appears to wobble, too, because the plane of its orbit is tilted 2.5 degrees with respect to the plane of the star pair's orbit. As seen from Earth, the wobbling orbit moves up and down continuously.

Kepler finds planets by noticing the dimming of a star or stars when a planet transits, or travels in front of them. Normally, planets transit like clockwork. Astronomers using Kepler discovered the wobbling when they found an unusual pattern of transiting for Kepler-413b.

"Looking at the Kepler data over the course of 1,500 days, we saw three transits in the first 180 days -- one transit every 66 days -- then we had 800 days with no transits at all. After that, we saw five more transits in a row," said Veselin Kostov, the principal investigator on the observation. Kostov is affiliated with the Space Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. The next transit visible from Earth's point of view is not predicted to occur until 2020. This is because the orbit moves up and down, a result of the wobbling, in such a great degree that it sometimes does not transit the stars as viewed from Earth.

Astronomers are still trying to explain why this planet is out of alignment with its stars. There could be other planetary bodies in the system that tilted the orbit. Or, it could be that a third star nearby that is a visual companion may actually be gravitationally bound to the system and exerting an influence.

"Presumably there are planets out there like this one that we're not seeing because we're in the unfavorable period," said Peter McCullough, a team member with the Space Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University. "And that's one of the things that Veselin is researching: Is there a silent majority of things that we're not seeing?"

Even with its changing seasons, Kepler-413b is too warm for life as we know it. Because it orbits so close to the stars, its temperatures are too high for liquid water to exist, making it inhabitable. It also is a super Neptune -- a giant gas planet with a mass about 65 times that of Earth -- so there is no surface on which to stand.

NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., is responsible for the Kepler mission concept, ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., developed the Kepler flight system and supports mission operations with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore archives, hosts and distributes Kepler science data. Kepler is NASA's 10th Discovery mission and was funded by the agency's Science Mission Directorate.

Source: NASA.Gov

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A computer-generated image of the Kepler telescope in space.
NASA

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Broncos, Broncos, Broncos...

The logo for Super Bowl XLVIII in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

43-8... So was the unexpectedly lop-sided score between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos in East Rutherford, New Jersey tonight. Clearly, this was a choke job that Peyton Manning will think about for the remainder of his NFL career. Even though Denver never had the lead in Super Bowl XLVIII (those 8 points were scored during ├╝ber-garbage time in the 3rd quarter), this collapse was on par with the New Yankee Yankees losing the 2004 American League Championship Series to the Boston Red Sox after the Yanks led the series, 3 games to none, and the L.A. Lakers giving up a 24-point lead to the Boston Celtics in a Game 4 loss of the 2008 NBA Finals. The only difference is, I couldn't really give a rat's arse about the Rex Sox winning the World Series a decade ago.

The football flies above Peyton Manning's head as the Denver Broncos err on the first play of Super Bowl XLVIII, on February 2, 2014.
Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

Pretty bummed that Manning and his team couldn't find a way to recover after messing up that snap in the game's first play...but hey—at least Pete Carroll has a professional championship to go with the various titles (now vacated through sanctions by the NCAA a few years back) he won with the USC Trojans several years ago. Had this game not been annulled by the NCAA, Trojans fans would've probably dwelt on the 2006 Rose Bowl loss against the Texas Longhorns, while Carroll and his Hawks are flying high right now. Anyways, time to watch the Transformers: Age of Extinction Super Bowl spot over and over and over... Click here if you want to do so as well.

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll hoists up the Vince Lombardi Trophy after his team defeated the Denver Broncos, 43-8, in Super Bowl XLVIII...on February 2, 2014.
AP Photo / Ted S. Warren