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American Astronomical Society, Day 1

11 Jan 2011, 05:32 UTC
American Astronomical Society, Day 1
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This week I am at the 217th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington. There are nearly 3000 astronomers registered for the meeting and swarming all over downtown Seattle. There should be lots of exciting astronomy news coming out of this conference; keep an eye on your newspaper or sites like Universe Today for the full complement of news; I only get to see a small portion of all the excitement!

Today's news included a Kepler discovery of a planet only a little larger than the Earth and a cool Hubble picture of Hanny's Voorwerp, a cloud of ghostly, greenish glowing gas discovered by a Dutch school teacher. The planet is about 40% larger in diameter than the Earth and has a mass about 4 or 5 times that of the Earth, which means it almost certainly has a core of iron and nickel surrounded by some rock. It would not be a great place to live -- it circles its parent star every 20 hours and likely has a surface temperature of 2500 degrees Celsius. As one astronomer said about another, even hotter Jupiter-sized planet, "It's not very hospitable."

Over lunch, I went to a town hall ...

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