From the March 2006 issue

May 2006 resources

Learn more about topics from the May 2006 issue.
By | Published: March 24, 2006
What happens when black holes collide?
Astronomy article — Richard Talcott’s “What makes black holes tick?” (October 2005) is an overview of black-hole basics.

Web — Check out NASA’s LISA site for the upcoming mission to detect the gravitational signature of colliding black holes.

Read the paper that revived the topic of black hole kicks here.

For more on Tom Abel, Miroslav Micic, and Steinn Sigurdsson’s research, read their paper here.

The Luc Blanchet, Moh’d Qusailah, Clifford Will group have some of the most recent findings in their paper, available here.

Saturn’s Titan reveals earthlike surprises
Astronomy articles — Senior Editor Richard Talcott wrote about the Huygens probe’s findings in “Titan touchdown” (April 2005) and in “Huygens reveals Titan’s secrets”.

In “Titan, Mars methane may be on ice”, Associate Editor Francis Reddy outlined researchers’ current thinking on the source of Titan’s methane.

Michael Carroll looked at the possibility of a geologically active Titan in “Titan’s dynamic realm” and in “Detective Cassini strikes again”.

Marty Tomasko, principal investigator for the Huygens imaging package, told Astronomy about the problems his group encountered processing Huygens data here (subscription required) and in the “Top 10 astronomy stories of 2005” (January 2006).

Fatal attraction
Astronomy articles — Bill Cooke wrote about astronomers’ progress in locating hazardous asteroids in “Killer Impact” (December 2004).

Bill Cooke’s “Asteroid Apophis set for a makeover” discusses research suggesting the asteroid’s encounter with Earth will cause Apophis to be reshaped.

In “Impact risk scale revised”, Robert Adler tells how our encounter with Apophis forced astronomers to tone down the Torino impact-hazard scale’s language.

Web — Former astronaut Rusty Schweickart makes the case for developing technologies to divert asteroids in “We must decide to do it: The saga of 2004 MN4,” originally published in the July/August 2005 issue of The Planetary Report (the full text is available here).

Searching for signs of life
Astronomy articles — Does life have an easy time getting started, or a difficult one? Once life gets going, how hardy is it to rough conditions? Alan Longstaff answers these questions, as well as looks at the prospects for life elsewhere in the solar system and beyond, in “Quest for a living universe” (April 2005).

Trying to find life by looking for biological signatures in the spectra of distant planets is one method astronomers are pursuing. Another method involves eavesdropping on the electromagnetic “chatter” produced by technological civilizations. Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute describes the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) in “Listening for a whisper” (September 2004).

Web — NASA maintains a “PlanetQuest” site that describes the search for extrasolar planets and, in particular, those with earthlike qualities. The site will lead you to detailed information on NASA’s plans and ground-based efforts to find these so-far-elusive worlds.

Red Planet rendezvous
Astronomy special issue — For a comprehensive overview of all things martian, don’t miss Astronomy‘s 2006 collector’s edition, Mars: Explore the Red Planet’s past, present, and future.

Print — Among the more recent, informative, and well-illustrated books is A Traveler’s Guide to Mars by William K. Hartmann (Workman Publishing, 2003), which is also a handy size. Three coffee-table-size books with loads of illustrations are Michael Hanlon’s The Real Mars (Carroll & Graf, 2004), Visions of Mars by Olivier de Goursac (Harry N. Abrams, 2005), and Ken Croswell’s Magnificent Mars (Free Press, 2003).

If you wish to dig into the scientific story in more depth, take a look at The Smithsonian Book of Mars by Joseph M. Boyce (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002).

Web — Take a look here for regularly updated features and images from the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) instrument on Mars Odyssey.

JPL also hosts an excellent “gateway” to all Mars spacecraft, including the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission. JPL’s animation project has a site, too.