Fourteen year old supernova discovery

SN 2008ha
SN 2008ha

Caroline Moore, a 14 year old student in New York, discovered the supernova SN 2008ha in a galaxy 70 million light-years away last year. This makes her the youngest person known to have discovered a supernova, which is interesting in itself and reminds us that scientific discovery is not just limited to professional scientists with extensive training and access to expensive instruments. What's even more interesting is that she discovered the weakest supernova ever observed. In fact, I'm not quite certain if it even was a supernova, being far more weaker than other supernova but still far more powerful than a nova.

SN 2008ha was a stellar explosion of a type never seen before. While the consensus seems to be that it was indeed a supernova of some sort, there is disagreement on exactly what sort of supernova it may have been. The lack of hydrogen in the observed spectra indicates that it may have been similar to a Type Ia supernova, which explodes from a runaway fusion reaction when enough matter accretes on a white dwarf. The only problem with this is that the way Type Ia supernova occur suggests that they should all have pretty much the same brightness, and SN 2008ha is far more weaker than the typical Type Ia supernova. An alternative explanation is that it may have been more like a Type II supernova where a massive star implodes, except in this case the massive star in question may have lost much of its hydrogen and had only a "little" of the energy escape the implosion.

And then there's my own favorite theory: it's an alien power station gone kaboom.

Kaguya to the Moon

Kaguya is the Japanese spacecraft that has been orbiting around the Moon for more than a year and a half. For the average public like us, the couple of HD cameras on the spacecraft gave us beautiful video of the Moon. But now it's going to be crashed into the Moon in a couple of days. To remember Kaguya, here's a video clip of the Moon taken by Kaguya from only 11 kilometers, or 7 miles, above the surface at double the actual speed:

Supporting science speech

When someone hears about claims that seem ridiculous, they should be able to speak freely about what they think about the claims, especially when their thoughts are backed up by strong research. Unfortunately, it is all too common for those who are only backed up by wishful thinking to attack their naysayers with lawsuits, which is bad enough.

Continue reading "Supporting science speech"

Religious schools and abortions

If you have a daughter and do not want her to have an abortion, then you should not send her to a religious school, because women who go to private religious schools are five times more likely to have an extra-marital abortion.

Of course, I'm not being entirely fair since correlation does not necessarily imply causation. However, it is odd how places where you would expect stronger anti-choice rhetoric have more abortions. Perhaps the way to get rid of abortions is to make access to birth control easier and get rid of misogynistic attitudes, instead of trying to outlaw abortions or kill obstetricians/gynecologists ...