Space

I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy.
  - Richard Feynman

I just read a neat HST result on dark matter on slashdot.org. I also enjoy peeking at Astronomy Picture of the Day to find out about stuff I don't know. Basically, I get my fix from the same sites I recommend to others curious about astronomy.  So I'm not just a professional astronomer. I'm an astronomer fan when it comes to fields other than what I work on.

Researchers using data from NASA's THEMIS mission have pinpointed the impact epicenter of an earthbound space storm as it crashes into the atmosphere - and given an advance warning of its arrival. The team's study reveals that magnetic blast waves can be used to pinpoint and predict the location where space storms dissipate their massive amounts of energy. These storms can dump the equivalent of 50 gigawatts of power, or the output of 10 of the world's largest power stations, into Earth's atmosphere.

The joint Japan-U.S. Suzaku mission is providing new insight into how assemblages of thousands of galaxies pull themselves together and, for the first time, Suzaku has detected X-ray-emitting gas at a cluster's outskirts, where a billion-year plunge to the center begins.

Suzaku ("red bird of the south") was launched on July 10, 2005. The observatory was developed at the Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), which is part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), in collaboration with NASA and other Japanese and U.S. institutions.
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has found a cosmic "ghost" lurking around a distant supermassive black hole. This is the first detection of such a high-energy apparition, and scientists think it is evidence of a huge eruption produced by the black hole.

This discovery presents astronomers with a valuable opportunity to observe phenomena that occurred when the Universe was very young. The X-ray ghost, so-called because a diffuse X-ray source has remained after other radiation from the outburst has died away, is in the Chandra Deep Field-North, one of the deepest X-ray images ever taken. The source, a.k.a. HDF 130, is over 10 billion light years away and existed at a time 3 billion years after the Big Bang, when galaxies and black holes were forming at a high rate.
A post-doc is extremely low on the totem pole of authority.  The ranking goes roughly: Principal Investigators and Branch Heads, Staff Scientists, Secretaries, Soft-Money Scientists, Technical Staff, Support Staff, Janitors, the stray cats in the garage (yes, we have them!), Post-docs, Students.

Naturally the branch head asked me to manage the pre-launch efforts to ensure our science pipeline would be ready on time and able to produce scientific results from day one.

I found the situation extremely amusing.  There I was, a newcomer to the group and a lowly post-doc to boot, assigning tasks to senior scientists, shifting people to must-do items, and chiding them for missing deadlines.  And you know what?  Everyone was fine with that.
Astronomers have found more than 300 alien (extrasolar) worlds so far. Most of these are gas giants like Jupiter, and are either too hot (too close to their star) or too cold (too far away) to support life as we know it.

Sometime in the near future, however, astronomers will probably find one that's just right – a planet with a solid surface that's the right distance for a temperature that allows liquid water -- an essential ingredient in the recipe for life.

But the first picture of this world will be just a speck of light. How can we find out if it might have liquid water on its surface? If it has lots of water – oceans – we are in luck.
http://www.coelumstream.com/ is broadcasting live images of galaxies, to be compared with reference images in search for supernovaes. A commentary is provided in Italian and English. Join NOW!

Below is a screenshot of what is being shown now.

This week's PhD Comic lists the 4 'research topics guaranteed to be picked up by the new media':

  1. Chocolate
  2. Robots
  3. Unrealistic Sci-Fi gadgets
  4. Experiments that might blow up the world
Pulsars are superdense neutron stars, the remnants left after massive stars have exploded as supernovae. Their powerful magnetic fields generate lighthouse-like beams of light and radio waves that sweep around as the star rotates. Most rotate a few to tens of times a second, slowing down over thousands of years.
Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, astronomers have succeeded in measuring the size of giant galaxy Messier 87 - or what they thought there should be.    It turns out that its outer parts have been stripped away - and no one is yet sure how.   To add to its woes, the galaxy also appears to be on a collision course with another giant galaxy in this dynamic cluster.