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Light Years

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SCIENCE
February 6, 2013 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
Scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., said Wednesday morning that an "Earth-like" planet -- that is, a small rocky planet warm enough to have liquid water on its surface and potentially capable of hosting life -- could be as close as 13 light-years away. It's hardly "next door" (as a press release touting the announcement put it), in any traditional sense: 13 light-years is something like 76 trillion miles away.  But across the vast distances of the Milky Way, said Harvard astronomer Courtney Dressing, 13 light-years amounts to "a stroll in the park.
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SCIENCE
June 14, 2013 | By Geoffrey Mohan
Astronomers have put the known universe in a box on your computer screen - the 120 million light-years of it within our grasp, at least. With a mellifluous French-accented narration, some light piano music and sweeping computer animation, the video could become a stoner classic. It also happens to be the most detailed modern cosmography of all that is visible in the sky - and a great deal of what is not. At nearly 18 minutes long (that's less than one side of Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon")
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BOOKS
July 19, 1987
Philip J. Klass' review of my book "Light Years" (The Book Review, June 7) was unfair to me as an author and unfair to your readers who deserve unbiased reporting. Unfortunately, few of your readers know that for 20 years Klass has conducted a one-man campaign intent on proving that anyone who claims to have seen something unexplainable in the sky is either mentally deficient or lying for profit; he has published at least three books and made hundreds of public appearances trying to debunk UFOs.
SCIENCE
June 6, 2013 | By Deborah Netburn
In a vast disc of gas and dust particles circling a young star, scientists have found evidence of a hypothesized but never-seen dust trap that may solve the mystery of how planets form. We know planets that orbit stars are abundant throughout our galaxy, and likely throughout the universe as well, but until recently, scientists weren't exactly sure how those planets came to be. The working theory is that they grew over time as tiny bits of dust collided and stuck together -- eventually forming comets, rocky planets and the cores of gaseous planets over millions of years.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
April 11, 1995 | GREG HERNANDEZ
In the mid-1890s, downtown merchants decided they needed a way to keep customers in the area after dark. The answer: electric lights. Less than a year later, the merchants got their wish when the city completed its own electric plant. The facility, which initially lit 175 incandescent lamps and 22 arc lamps, was Southern California's first municipally owned utility.
SCIENCE
December 3, 2005 | From Times Staff and Wire Reports
French and Swiss astronomers working at the La Silla observatory in Chile discovered a planet about the size of Neptune 20.5 light years from our solar system, the European Southern Observatory said Wednesday. The still-unnamed planet is circling a red dwarf star called G1 581 in the Libra constellation, and has about 17 times the mass of the Earth. It takes five days to complete its orbit around a star that has about one-third the mass of the sun, the observatory said.
ENTERTAINMENT
February 2, 1988 | CHARLES SOLOMON
'Light Years," a new French film at the Nuart and Rialto theaters through Saturday, accomplishes something no other animated feature has done: It makes Saturday-morning kidvid look good. It's difficult to know just where to assign the blame, as the credits list five directors, a technical director, four creative consultants, a creator-animator, a writer-adapter who works only in English and an "original screenplay translator."
BOOKS
December 20, 1987 | Ernest Callenbach
"Light Years" is a stressed-out evocation of the blase world of movie-making crews. Author Tom McDonough is a cameraman himself, and nobody else has given us this much low-down ethnographic feel for the profession--though it will be no news in Hollywood that there's often more intelligence (and better conversation) behind the camera than in front of it.
NEWS
November 17, 1989 | LEE DYE, TIMES SCIENCE WRITER
Scientists have discovered the largest structure seen so far in the universe, a narrow sheet of galaxies stretching more than half a billion light years across space. The scientists, who have pioneered in the effort to determine the large-scale structure of the universe by creating three-dimensional images of space, have called their discovery the Great Wall.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
September 16, 2011 | By Scott Gold, Los Angeles Times
The desert planet of Tatooine is home to all manner of wonderful creatures — womp rats and banthas and jawas. But any proper "Star Wars" fan knows that the planet's most dynamic feature is its two suns, creating a magnificent double sunset that a young Luke Skywalker stares into during his wistful moments. On Thursday, astronomers announced the discovery of a real planet that orbits two suns, a scenario that breaks so many galactic rules that it was thought by many to exist only in science fiction.
SCIENCE
June 3, 2013 | By Deborah Netburn
Scientists have snapped an image of a newly discovered alien world that is just 300 light-years from Earth. The planet, dubbed HD 95086 b, is huge--four to five times the size of Jupiter -- and it makes a wide circle around its young sun, orbiting the star at twice the distance between our sun and Neptune. Despite the wide orbit, scientists estimate that the planet is burning hot with surface temperatures around 700 degrees Celsius (almost 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit). Still, it is possible that water vapor could exist in its atmosphere, as well as methane gas, said Gaël Chauvin, one of the scientists who helped discover the planet, in a statement.
SCIENCE
May 24, 2013 | By Deborah Netburn
Looks can be deceiving, especially when it comes to nebulae. From here on Earth, the well-studied Ring Nebula looks like a fiery, slightly misshapen ring with fuzzy edges and a hole in its center. But using data collected from the Hubble Telescope, and land-based observations, astronomers have revealed that the shape of the Ring Nebula is more complex than previously thought. PHOTOS: Amazing images from space It turns out that what looks like an empty space in the center of the nebula is actually filled with low-density material that stretches toward Earth and away from us. If we could rotate the nebula 90 degrees and look at it from the side, we would see that the ring is thick--kind of like a doughnut--and that wedged inside its hole is another shape that looks like a cross between a rugby ball and a Tylenol gel capsule.
NEWS
May 1, 2013 | By Russ Parsons
The 2013 California salmon season begins Wednesday. That alone is cause for celebration, but even better news is that this looks like it could be a great year for fish. The California salmon harvest has been bedeviled by a whole host of problems - pollution, global warming, water politics - that resulted in little or no fish being caught commercially between 2008 and 2012. Last year was the first season with a significant catch, and this year's looks to be just as good, if not better.
SCIENCE
February 20, 2013 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
NASA scientists have discovered a faraway planet that's smaller than Mercury - far tinier than they expected they could find when they launched the Kepler space telescope nearly four years ago. The hot, rocky world orbits a sun-like star that's about 210 light-years from Earth. Astronomers are excited about it because it's smaller than any planet in our solar system, said astrophysicist Thomas Barclay of NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. "This is the smallest exoplanet that's ever been found," said Barclay, lead author of a report on the discovery published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
SCIENCE
February 6, 2013 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
Scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., said Wednesday morning that an "Earth-like" planet -- that is, a small rocky planet warm enough to have liquid water on its surface and potentially capable of hosting life -- could be as close as 13 light-years away. It's hardly "next door" (as a press release touting the announcement put it), in any traditional sense: 13 light-years is something like 76 trillion miles away.  But across the vast distances of the Milky Way, said Harvard astronomer Courtney Dressing, 13 light-years amounts to "a stroll in the park.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
November 10, 2012 | From a Times staff writer
Wallace L.W. Sargent, a Caltech astrophysicist known for his observations of black holes, quasars and other celestial objects at the farthest reaches of the universe, died Oct. 29 at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles, according to a Caltech spokesman. He was 77 and had been battling prostate cancer. A professor emeritus of astronomy, Sargent arrived at Caltech from his native Britain in 1959 and spent three years as a research fellow. He returned to the university in 1966 as an assistant professor and became a full professor in 1971.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
November 10, 2012 | From a Times staff writer
Wallace L.W. Sargent, a Caltech astrophysicist known for his observations of black holes, quasars and other celestial objects at the farthest reaches of the universe, died Oct. 29 at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles, according to a Caltech spokesman. He was 77 and had been battling prostate cancer. A professor emeritus of astronomy, Sargent arrived at Caltech from his native Britain in 1959 and spent three years as a research fellow. He returned to the university in 1966 as an assistant professor and became a full professor in 1971.
SCIENCE
June 14, 2013 | By Geoffrey Mohan
Astronomers have put the known universe in a box on your computer screen - the 120 million light-years of it within our grasp, at least. With a mellifluous French-accented narration, some light piano music and sweeping computer animation, the video could become a stoner classic. It also happens to be the most detailed modern cosmography of all that is visible in the sky - and a great deal of what is not. At nearly 18 minutes long (that's less than one side of Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon")
SCIENCE
November 8, 2012 | By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
A team of astronomers has made two discoveries: a super-Earth sitting a mere 42 light years away at just the right temperature for liquid water -- and a creative new way to look for such exoplanets. The super-Earth, HD 40307-g, is one of three discovered around HD 40307, bringing the grand total of planets around the dwarf star up to six. It lies in what's known as the habitable zone, where liquid water -- a required ingredient for life -- could exist. At seven Earth masses, it's likely hefty enough to have an atmosphere, said study co-author Hugh Jones, a University of Hertfordshire astronomer.
SCIENCE
October 17, 2012 | By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
Scientists have spent years hunting for Earth-like planets orbiting stars elsewhere in the galaxy. Now they have found one that's a relative stone's-throw away. The so-called exoplanet - a planet beyond our solar system - is circling Alpha Centauri B, just 4.37 light-years from Earth. A mere 3.7 million miles from the star's surface, it is far too hot to support life. But there's a chance that another planetary sibling may reside in the system's so-called habitable zone, where liquid water could exist, scientists say. The discovery, described in Thursday's edition of the journal Nature, has further whet planetary scientists' appetite for finding nearby Earth-like planets - ones close enough for humans to potentially visit one day. "It's the most reasonable star to think about going to, and now we know there's a planet around it," said Nick Gautier, deputy project scientist for NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope, who wasn't involved in the discovery.
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