Friday, July 12, 2013

A new blue planet

For the first time, we know the color of an extrasolar planet:

Although the planet seems to be the shade of a deep ocean, it is unlikely to host liquid water. The exoplanet is a giant ball of gas, similar to Jupiter, and was previously often painted brown and red in artists' impressions.
The blue colour may come from clouds laden with reflective particles that contain silicon — essentially raindrops of molten glass. Evidence for this idea dates to 2007, when Hubble observed the planet passing in front of its star. Light from the star seemed to be passing through a haze of particles.
 (See also this post for more about exoplanet weather.)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk

Note the wiggly object in its beak-- at first I thought this was a rodent's tail, but it could be an earthworm. These hawks have, in fact, been observed eating worms, and moments earlier I saw this particular bird foraging on the ground: