Space

I just posted a tweet storm from this week's 215th AAS Conference.  The specific session was a workshop on "Astronomy Employment: Past and Future".  The panelists were Beryl Benderly (Science Careers journalist), Rachel Ivie (AIP), Jim Ulvestad (NRAO), and Steve Beckwith (Univ. of CA), and their opinions were both frank and highly welcome at dispelling illusions about the ivory tower of academia.

This is the cold, hard reality of professional astronomy, presented from the inside.  Here are the quotes and tweets from the workshop.

"More people are beign qualified as scientists than can be employed" (B. Benderly) #aas215
 Researchers at the American Museum of Natural History and the University of Cambridge have developed models they say explain how earth survived its birth. Presenting their findings at the 2010 meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C., the team suggests that variations in temperature can lead to regions of outward and inward migration that safely trap planets on orbits. When the protoplanetary disk begins to dissipate, planets are left behind, safe from impact with their parent star.
Despite astronomers hopes, the rocky planet CoRoT-7 b that was discovered circling a star some 480 light years from Earth last October is likely a forbidding place that doesn't harbor life. Upon its discovery, experts said that was because the planet is so close to its star that
temperatures might be above 4,000 degrees F (2,200 C) on the surface lit by its star and as low as minus 350 F (minus 210 C) on its dark side.
What are the best new astronomy books?  I just got asked this question, and thought I'd hit up all you Bloggies for your opinions.  I'll also make sure to check with publishers at the ongoing 215th AAS Meeting to get their recommendations, and post updates as they arrive.

My recommendations so far would be:

1) Laika, by Nick Abadzis (2007)
Shown in an extremely broad range of color and showcasing more than twelve billion years of cosmic history, Hubble's recent image is a full-glory cosmic renaissance of the history of the Universe. This image provides a record of the Universe's most exciting formative years, from the birth of stars in the early Universe all the way through the materialization of the Milky Way.
Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have broken the distance limit for galaxies by uncovering a primordial population of never-before-seen ultra-blue galaxies. At 13 billion years old, they formed approximately 600 to 800 million years after the Big Bang.

Researchers say these newly found objects are crucial to understanding the evolutionary link between the birth of the first stars, the formation of the first galaxies, and the sequence of evolutionary events that resulted in the assembly of our Milky Way and the other "mature" elliptical and majestic spiral galaxies in today's universe.
By studying unknown high-energy sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, radio astronomers have uncovered 17 millisecond pulsars in our galaxy. The  discovery was made  in less than three months, and such a jump in the pace of locating these hard-to-find objects holds the promise of using them as a kind of "galactic GPS" to detect gravitational waves passing near Earth.
In their quest to find solar systems analogous to ours own, astronomers have determined how common our solar system is--not very. In a study presented today at the American Astronomical Society Meeting in Washington, DC, Ohio State researchers explained that approximately 10 percent of stars in the universe host systems of planets like our own, with several gas giant planets in the outer part of the solar system.

"Now we know our place in the universe," said Ohio State University astronomer Scott Gaudi. "Solar systems like our own are not rare, but we're not in the majority, either."
New evidence uncovered by a team from Imperial College London and the University College London (UCL) suggests that during the Hesperian Epoch, approximately 3 billion years ago, Mars sustained lakes of melted ice, each around 20 km wide, along parts of its equator. The discovery challenges scientists' previous understanding of Mars during the Hesperian Epoch, a period which was previously thought to be too cold and arid to sustain water on the planet's surface. The findings appear in the journal Geology.
 
In the age of the Hubble Space Telescope, and ever larger earthbound scopes being build, many people are of the impression that one needs costly equipment to enjoy the night skies.

Nothing is further from the truth. Reality, however, is that occasions at which one can observe the stars and planets are sparse due to urban light pollution. Tommaso has blogged about this issue before (see: The Continuing Search For A Dark Site).