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Astronomy Beat

Exclusive ASP Membership Benefit

Astronomy Beat is a monthly, on-line column written by “insiders” from the worlds of astronomy research and outreach.

Current issue: March 8, 2017

Glasses for Mr. Magoo’s Spectrograph

David J. Erskine (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)
This month, the team at the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope announced the discovery of the first known system of seven Earth-size planets orbiting around a single star — setting a new record for greatest number of planets having the right conditions needed for the existence of liquid water found outside our solar system.

This month’s Astronomy Beat takes us back to the very early days of exoplanet discovery, before the days of space telescopes when astronomers used spectroscopy to capture the exceedingly tiny Doppler shifts of a star being tugged back and forth by its companion planet. How was this feat accomplished? What tools were built to make this possible? Dr. David Erskine tells us his behind-the-scenes story of how he invented tools and techniques helping early exoplanet detection.


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In 2014, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific celebrates its 125th anniversary year of communicating and educating about the universe around us. But back in 1889, the universe seemed a very different place–simpler, but perhaps no less mysterious. Jim Manning, departing executive director, takes a long moment to look the state of astronomy and the cosmos at the time of the Society’s founding, and how things have changed since then in the February 2014 issue of Astronomy Beat. Join him for a peek at the universe “125 years ago today.”

With our compliments, please enjoy the June 2013 issue of Astronomy Beat featuring Nancy Roman, an early pioneer in paving the way for female scientists at NASA. Among other accomplishments, and because of her tireless efforts in support of a space-based observatory, Nancy Roman is often considered the “mother” of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Download the following sample Astronomy Beat columns FREE to see what the series is like.

Celebrating Diversity: The ASP’s Arthur B.C. Walker II Award
by Linda Shore

The Discovery of Pluto
by Clyde Tombaugh

The Discovery of the First Gravitational Lenses
by Ray Weymann

Origins of the Drake Equation
by Frank Drake and Dava Sobel

Stargazing Centaurs: The Astronomy of Harry Potter
by Kristine Larsen

And the Sun Stood Still: Dramatizing Copernicus
by Dava Sobel

How to Catch a Moon or Two of Pluto
by Mark R. Showalter