The Bad Astronomer writes: "In a cosmic two-fer, astronomers have found two planets about the same size as Earth orbiting the same star. The planets, dubbed Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, are 11,100 and 13,200 km across, respectively, compared to 12,750 for Earth. Both orbit very close to their star and are far hotter than Earth, but are the smallest two exoplanets ever confirmed orbiting another Sun-like star. Interestingly, three other planets were found in this alien solar system, all of which orbit the star closer than Mercury orbits the Sun. This is yet another milestone in the search for an Earth-like planet orbiting in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star."
The Bad Astronomer writes: "In what is one of the most staggeringly beautiful Hubble pictures ever taken, a newly-born massive star is blasting four separate jets of material into its surrounding cocoon, carving out cavities in the material over two light years long. But only three of the jets appear to have matter still inside them, and the central star is off-center. This may be a gorgeous picture, but the science behind it is equally as compelling."
The Bad Astronomer writes: "Rolf Olsen, an "amateur" astronomer in New Zealand, took an amazing photo of a disk of material around the star Beta Pictoris, the first time this has been seen outside of professional observatories. Incredibly, he snagged it with just a 25 cm (10") telescope! A comparison with an earlier pic from a much larger observatory indicates he nailed it, making this a milestone for amateur astronomy."
The Bad Astronomer writes: "On October 26, the International Space Station underwent a reboost, moving it into a higher orbit to compensate for atmospheric drag. During the firing, the astronauts onboard had a little fun with the physics of acceleration. This video is destined to be shown in high school physics classes for years."
The Bad Astronomer writes: "The city-block-sized asteroid 2005 YU55 will pass about 320,000 km from Earth on Tuesday, and astronomers are already observing it. Using radio telescopes like radar guns, they can determine its distance, shape, size, and even rotation. Also, a new image was just released using the Goldstone radio 'scope in just this way."
The Bad Astronomer writes: "A few months ago I was sent a really weird video showing a cloud snapping around suddenly, far faster than wind could explain. I asked a meteorologist about it, who told me it was due to ice crystals re-aligning when the cloud's electric field discharged. It's pretty amazing to watch, and a great example of how many cool things happen right in front of us that we never notice."
The Bad Astronomer writes: "A new paper, recently posted on the arXiv physics preprint server, claims to have explained the FTL neutrino experiment from last month. The author claims the motion of the GPS satellite introduces a relativistic dilation that accounts for the now-infamous 60 ns discrepancy in neutrino flight time. However, I'm not so sure; the original experimenters claimed to have accounted for relativistic effects. I don't think we've seen the end of this just yet."
The Bad Astronomer writes: "Using new software techniques on Hubble data from 1998, astronomers have teased out direct images of three planets orbiting the Sun-like star HR 8799, 130 light years away. These planets were discovered in 2008 using a different telescope, but had been sitting in the Hubble pictures this whole time, invisible due to their proximity to the bright star. Many other images of other stars are available, so it's entirely possible more planets will be found in this way."
The Bad Astronomer writes: "An astronomer studying data from the first 136 days of the Kepler observatory missions has calculated that as many as 34% of all Sun-like stars may have Earth-sized planets orbiting in their habitable zones, where conditions are right for life as we know it. I have some reservations with his numbers, but they do match other studies. There may be 15 billion warm, Earth-sized worlds in our galaxy alone."
The Bad Astronomer writes: "Science educator James Drake took 600 still photos from the International Space Station as it orbited the Earth, and created a fantastic time-lapse animation out of them. It must be seen to be appreciated; storms and cities fly past below in amazing clarity. I found this via Universe Today and added some commentary on my blog as well."
The Bad Astronomer writes: "As posted earlier on Slashdot, a Forbes Op/Ed claims there is a "gaping hole in global warming" theories, based on a recent paper. However, both the Forbes article and the paper on which it's based are what are seriously flawed. The paper has been excoriated by climate scientists, saying the model used is "unrealistic" and "incorrect", and the author has a track record of using bad models to make incorrect conclusions."
The Bad Astronomer writes: "Astronomers have found the very first Earth Trojan asteroid, a rock that more-or-less shares Earth's orbit around the Sun. Seen in data by NASA's WISE mission, 2010 TK7 is about 300 meters across and leads the Earth by 60 degrees around the Sun. Trojans have been seen for Jupiter, Neptune, and Mars, but this is the first for our planet."
The Bad Astronomer writes: "Astronomers have discovered that the source of water in Saturn's upper atmosphere is none other than the geysers erupting from its moon Enceladus. The geysers spew water into space, most of which is lost. A small amount, though, falls to Saturn... equivalent to only about 7.5 kilos/second over the entire planet. A typical rainfall on Earth is 42 trillion times heavier."