Planet Hunting and Other Stellar News Crdt: ESO
November 26, 2012
In case you missed it, journalist Kate Murphy wrote an article about astronomer Geoff Marcy's personal tastes in reading, watching, listening, and purchasing in the Sunday Review section of the New York Times yesterday. Marcy recommends a new book about how to travel to extrasolar planets, called “Centauri Dreams: Imagining and Planning Interstellar Exploration” by Paul Gilster. Check it out! Gilster thinks that one day, "solar sails" may be used to propel space ships to planets which are over 10,000 times farther away than than the planets in our own solar system.
Marcy's recent purchases suggest two great gift ideas for budding astronomers. One is a Mova globe, which seems to float and spin effortlessly. The other is a $19 optical zoom telephoto lens that works with an iPhone 5, and can be mounted to a tripod that comes with the lens. Use the lens to spot planets and moons in the night sky!
January 16, 2012
October 17, 2011
I just learned that the American Institute of Physics has granted its Science Communications Award to PLANET HUNTER. The award ceremony will be in Austin, TX on January 11th. Check out the link to the press release! AIP Science Communication Award
February 2, 2011
Planets are everywhere! A team of scientists operating NASA's Kepler Space Telescope announced the detection of an astounding number of new planets -- 1,235.
In a front page article in the New York Times, reporter Dennis Overbye quoted Geoff Marcy, the astronomer profiled in my book, PLANET HUNTER. Marcy called the findings "an extraordinary planet windfall, a moment that will be written in textbooks. It will be thought of as watershed."
Although it will take years for Geoff Marcy and other astronomers on the Kepler science team to confirm the findings with telescopes on the ground, they think the numbers are 80-95% accurate.
But the shear number -- which almost triples the amount of extrasolar planets known to date -- is just one piece of the excitement. Some of the planets (68) are among the smallest found so far. They are only one and one quarter larger than Earth and may be rocky, just like our own planet. Of those detected, 54 lie in the habitable zone around their parent star. This area, often called the Goldilocks zone, is the area around a star where conditions are "just right" for liquid water, and possibly life.
Could these planets share the rich diversity of life we have on Earth? Although astronomers don't think an Earth-like planet lies among these findings, the new planets were detected from only four months of data. However, Kepler, which was launched in March 2009, is a three and a half year mission, so there will be lots more data to analyze.
So stay tuned -- Kepler may detect planets that are candidates for life!
January 3, 2011
I just learned that Planet Hunter was named a 2010 Honor Book by the Society of School Librarians International (SSLI)!
The purpose of the SSLI "is to speak singularly and forcefully for the unique needs of school librarians in the educational community." SSLI's website is full of links to articles and presentations about teaching and curriculum support for librarians and teachers.
Each year the organization selects the best books in Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies. This year, Planet Hunter won an Honor Book award in the "Science - Grades 7-12" category.
December 1, 2010
The curriculum guide for Planet Hunter is on my website! You can download the pdf at no charge.
There are discussion questions, fun activities and experiments, and links to websites for further information. The guide covers the Doppler effect, planet hunting techniques, the properties of light, the possibilities for intelligent life, and what makes a planet habitable.
I hope the guide is useful in your classrooms, libraries and community groups, or if you just want to understand more about planet hunting. Enjoy!
November 10, 2010
I was pleased to offer two workshops at the Science Teachers Association of New York State (STANYS), in Rochester, NY from November 6-9. Science teachers for grades 4-8 learned about planet hunting and the search for life beyond Earth. One of my workshops also demonstrated how student research and interviews of scientists can inspire children and make astronomy and other sciences more accessible.
I met so many wonderful people at the conference, and now have a greater appreciation for how difficult it is to be a creative and innovative teacher. With very little time in the teaching day and many curriculum requirements, teachers face big challenges and pressures. I am in awe of what so many teachers are able to accomplish with our children. Thank you, New York State science teachers!
October 9, 2010
This afternoon I spoke at Elizabeth Bird's Children's Literary Salon at the main branch of the New York City Public Library. The program was entitled Children's Literary Salon - Getting Organized: A Conversation With PEN, SCBWI, And The Authors Guild. Elizabeth is a librarian in the Children's Room and blogs at Fuse #8 Production, which is hosted by the School Library Journal.
Joining me on a panel were two award-winning children's authors, Pat Cummings and Susanna Reich. The talk focused on the three main organizations for children's writers -- the Society for Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), The Author's Guild, and the PEN American Center -- and how these organizations support published and unpublished writers.
Speaking on behalf of the SCBWI, I discussed the organization's extensive website, chock-full of publications and on-line forums that answer virtually every question a new or published writer or illustrator might have about writing and illustration techniques and tips, critique groups, contracts, marketing and publicity, agents, school visits and more. I also encouraged unpublished and published writers to take advantage of the SCBWI's Work-in-Progress grants. The SCBWI is huge, and membership is open to all writers, whether published or unpublished! There are over 22,000 members around the world, with 70 chapters.
As a member of the Steering Committee for the Metro New York Chapter, I help coordinate the Professional Series. These events occur monthly from October - June, on Tuesday evenings at 7:30pm (usually on the second Tuesday of the month), at the Anthroposophical Society, New York Branch, 138 West 15th Street (between 6th Avenue & 7th Avenue). This coming Tuesday, October 12, Cheryl Klein, Senior Editor at Arthur Levine Books, will speak about the 25 techniques that writers can use to revise.
Check the Metro New York Chapter website to read our newsletter, and to learn about upcoming events and happenings in the New York City area! (more…)
September 13, 2010
The BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL was yesterday at Borough Hall in Brooklyn Heights. Thousands of people turned out to listen to authors speak, sign books, and buy books! It was rainy and kind of cold, but the weather didn't deter me and my writing pal, Catherine Stine (photo below), from manning booth #77. Catherine's new book, GIRL'S BEST FRIEND, was just released from American Girl.
We both enjoyed chatting about our books. I especially loved speaking to all the young people excited by life on other planets!
September 7, 2010
Bookslut.com gave PLANET HUNTER a shout out in the September 2010 newsletter. Check it out in Off the Map, a column written by Colleen Mondor.
One of the reasons I decided to profile Marcy, as opposed to just writing about planet hunting techniques, was because I wanted readers to see how passion and hard work are the keys to success. So, I was delighted that Colleen pointed out this theme in her review:
"What makes the book appealing for teen readers (other than the whole premise of planet hunting in the first place) is that Marcy was not an exceptional student, and questioned his own abilities for quite some time. His decision to 'research something that I really cared about' is an ideal anyone can embrace and will be especially reassuring to teens harboring their own insecurities."
Here's the link to Colleen Mondor's column:
OFF THE MAP