Author Archives: justinrstevens

St. Elmo’s fire is a real thing

One really cool thing I learned about this semester is a thing called “St. Elmo’s Fire.”  (I’m pretty sure the textbook mentions it somewhere, and after stumbling across it I was instantly curious.)  So… what is it? For starters, it definitely does not involve Emilio Estevez or a fuzzy red puppet (or is it muppet?)…

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the Fermi paradox

The Fermi paradox is named after the famous scientist Enrico Fermi.  In this paradox, Fermi acknowledges the apparent contradiction between the amount of extraterrestrial life that we have detected (none) and the high probability that extraterrestrial life exists.  For these “high probabilities”, Fermi was drawing on lines of reasoning similar to that presented in the…

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exo… moons?

What are exomoons? Well, we have already studied exoplanets (short for extra-solar planets) which are planets that are not from our star system.  Accordingly, exo-moons are moons that orbit planets that orbit stars that aren’t the Sun.  Sounds pretty cool, right?  Well exomoons get even more interesting.  In fact, exomoons are currently the subject of…

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Pulsars are cool

                  Pulsars are pretty dang cool. Pulsars are a kind of neutron star that rotates really rapidly.  As they spin about their axis, they shoot off “pulses” or beams of energy.  These beams are emitted from their magnetic poles.  Pulsars (like all neutron stars) are formed from…

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the mysterious cosmic rays

THE MYSTERIOUS COSMIC RAYS What causes static on the radio and white noise on the TV?  Why do GPS and phone calls sometimes malfunction?  And what if I told you that the very same phenomenon was the cause for the “magical” aurora borealis (Northern lights).  As a matter of fact, just one phenomenon can account…

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Archeoastronomy and the Newgrange monument

Newgrange is a monument located in County Meath, Ireland.  This mysterious structure is estimated to be over 5,000 years old and was built by ancient inhabitants of Ireland during the Neolithic period.  Since its construction, word of the structure was passed down through generations as part of Irish folklore.  In the meantime, the mound-like shape…

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Historical Astronomers in Context

Tycho Brahe (Dec. 14, 1546 – Oct. 24,1601) Perhaps Tycho Brahe’s most significant contribution to astronomy was his ability to disprove an accepted belief regarding the ability of celestial objects to change.  At the time, the accepted idea was that stars, planets, etc. were “unchangeable.”  However, Tycho Brahe’s observation of a 1572 supernova shattered this…

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Using Stellarium for observing

“Stellarium is a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope.” – Stellarium webpage   Stellarium is an amazing bit of software to use for help with astronomical observing.  It is free 🙂 and you can…

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intro!

Hey everyone! My name is Justin and I am definitely excited to be learning more about space this spring!  In the above picture you can see my dog Rusty snuggling an astro textbook, so you can bet he is excited to learn as well.  In fact, my blog is named after Rusty himself, and it…

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What is St. Elmo’s Fire?

What is St. Elmo’s Fire? Well its not a 1980s “brat pack” movie, and it certainly has nothing to do with Sesame Street. In fact, St. Elmo’s Fire is a fascinating weather phenomenon that results from electrical charges in Earth’s atmosphere.  During (or shortly before/after) a thunderstorm, the difference in electrical charges between the air…

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