Shannon Hall


Science Reporter

Online News Stories in 2013

Prebiotic Molecules May Form in Exoplanet Atmospheres
Universe Today, December 2013


When Science is Art: a New Map of Wind Patterns
Universe Today, December 2013


Lithopanspermia: How Earth May Have Seeded
Life on Other Solar System Bodies

Universe Today, December 2013



Fast Radio Bursts may Originate Closer to Home Than Previously Thought
Universe Today, December 2013



Second Planetary System Like Ours Discovered
Universe Today, November 2013



Astronomers Accurately Simulate Galaxies from the Big Bang to Today
Universe Today, November 2013



Sgr A* Could be a Relic of a Powerful AGN
Universe Today, November 2013



How Astronomy Benefits Society and Humankind
Universe Today, November 2013



SCC students peer at moon rocks
The Ebbtide, November 2013



Awakening Orion
Cosmic Why, November 2013



Life After Kepler: Upcoming Exoplanet Missions
Universe Today, November 2013



Changing the Paradigm: Exoplanet Interview
with Dr. Sara Seager

Universe Today, October 2013



Astronomers Map Dark Matter Throughout the Entire Universe
Universe Today, October 2013



Don't Fall for 'Gravity'
The Ebbtide, October 2013



Novel Strategy May Help Target Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life
Universe Today, October 2013



Aspire for Less
The Ebbtide, October 2013



Earth and Climate: Two Scenarios of Our Planet
in 2100 AD

Universe Today, October 2013



Generating the First Map of Clouds on an Exoplanet
Astrobites, October 2013



Detecting the Magnetic Fields of Exoplanets May Help Determine Habitability
Universe Today, October 2013



The Densest Galaxy Discovered
Astrobites, October 2013



This Planetary Nebulae Comes with a Twist
Universe Today, October 2013



Magnetic Fields are Crucial to Exomoon Habitability
Universe Today, September 2013



New Molecules Detected in Io's Atmsophere
Universe Today, September 2013



Planet Evaporates Due to Stellar Flare
Universe Today, September 2013



Chandra Observes Sgr A* Rejecting Material
Astrobites, September 2013



New Exoplanet Research Magnetic Fields Significantly Affect Hot Jupiter Atmospheres
Universe Today, August 2013



When do Black Holes Become Active? The Case
of the Strangely-Shaped Galaxy Mrk 273

Universe Today, August 2013



Newly Discovered Fast Radio Bursts May be Colliding Neutron Stars
Universe Today, August 2013



How do Black Holes Get Super Massive?
Universe Today, August 2013



The Latest From Mars: Dried up Riverbed May
Have Flowed into an Ancient Ocean

Universe Today, July 2013



Let's Watch as the Supermassive Black Hole
Sgr A* Spaghettifies a Gas Cloud

Astrobites, July 2013



Birth of the Most Massive Star Known — Caught
in Action

Astrobites, July 2013



Jets Boost — Not Hinder — Star Formation in
Early Galaxies, New Study Suggests

Universe Today, July 2013



60 Billion Habitable Planets in the Milky Way Alone? Astronomers say Yes!
Universe Today, July 2013



Behind the Scenes of Supernovae Explosions:
The Violent Birth of Neutron Stars

Astrobites, July 2013



The Hunt for Exomoons Begins
Universe Today, July 2013



Behind the Scenes at Kitt Peak Observatory:
What is an Observing Run Really Like?

Universe Today, June 2013



A Rare Oppurtunity to Watch a Blue Straggler Forming
Universe Today, June 2013



Stephen Hawking Got it Wrong
Cosmic Why, June 2013



How do Hypervelocity Stars end up Breaking
the Speed Limit?

Universe Today, June 2013



The Ring Nebula in 3D
Astrobites, June 2013



Ties from Thailand
Cosmic Why, May 2013



The Question of Human Intellect
Cosmic Why, May 2013



Blocking Light Sheds New Light on Exoplanet Atmospheres
Universe Today, May 2013



Are we Approaching the Truth?
Cosmic Why, May 2013



Determinism: A Philosophical or Scientific Notion?
Cosmic Why, May 2013



Why do you Love Astronomy?
Astrobites, May 2013



Hidden Siblings in Kepler Systems
Astrobites, March 2013



Are Exomoons Habitable?
Astrobites, February 2013

New research suggests that the buildings blocks of life — prebiotic molecules — may form in the atmospheres of planets.


A new map of wind patters is so visually stunning it's easily mistaken for art.


With the recent discovery that Europa has geysers, and therefore definitive proof of a liquid ocean, there's a lot of talk about the possibility of life in the outer solar system. According to a new study, basic life forms can be distributed throughout the solar system via fragments cast forth by meteroid impacts.

Fast radio bursts — eruptions of extreme energy that occur only once and last a thousandth of a second — may originate closer to home: nearby flaring stars.



A team of European astronomers has discovered a second planetary system, the closest parallel to our own solar system yet found. This article received over 275,000 pageviews.


For the first time, astronomers are able to accurately simulate galaxies from shortly after the big bang to today by including a realistic treatment of the effects stars have on their host galaxies.



While our central supermassive black hole Sgr A* lies rather dormant at the moment, new evidence suggests that it was once a powerful AGN.


A team of European astronomers have related advancements in astronomy to advancements in industry, aerospace, energy, medicine, internation collaboration, everyday life and humankind.


Shoreline Community College students have the rare chance to peer at lunar samples — six small pieces of rock and soil enclosed in a petri dish — borrowed from NASA for two weeks.


NASA's newest space shuttle Orion, has been powered on for the first time, marking a major milestone in its preparations for human space flight.


Last week I held an interview with Dr. Sara Seager — a lead astronomer who has contributed vastly to the field of exoplanet characterization. This article — a compiled list of approved missions that will continue the search for habitable worlds — was inspired by our conversation.

Astronomers have now discovered one thousand extrasolar planets, reaching a milestone in modern astronomy. While many have contributed to this achievement, Dr. Sara Seager of MIT has played a large role over the past two decades by contributing vastly to the field of exoplanet characterization. The following is a condensed interview I held with Seager earlier this week.

Warped visions of the cosmic microwave background — the earliest detectable light — allow astronomers to map the total amount of visible and invisible matter throughout the universe.



While the film "Gravity" is beautiful, I was flabbergasted by Hollywood's need for pure action and its serious lack of understanding basic physics. Such a well-received film should be accurate while telling a moving story; "Gravity" fails to do both.

A novel strategy may help astronomers better target extraterrestrial intelligent life. Dr. Michael Gillon, of the University of Liege in Belgium, proposes an approach that would monitor the regions of nearby stars to search for interstellar communication devices.


With the release of the fith Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it's clear that climate change is very real, but it's especially clear that we are the cause. So here's my advice to every young individual: aspire for less.

Toward the end of the fifth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change looked toward our future, focusing on the climate after the year 2100. Here, Universe Today, explores two extreme scenarios for the Earth by 2100.


An international team of astronomers have used data from NASA's Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes to create the first map of clouds on an exoplanet.



Astronomers may soon be able to observe the shockwaves between the magnetic fields of exoplanets and the flow of particles from the stars they orbit.



The densest galaxy in the local universe may have been found.



From the Cat's Eye to the Eskimo, planetary nebulae are arguably among the most dazzling objects in the universe. Atronomers now argue that some of the most exotic shapes are the result of not one, but two stars at the center.

A new study takes a theoretical look at habitability — exploring the key components that may make exomoons livable. While stellar and planetary heating play a large role, it's quickly becoming clear that the magnetic environments of exomoons may be even more critical.


Io — Jupiter's innermost Galilean moon — is the most geologically active body in the solar system. Recently a team of astronomers set out to better constrain Io's atmosphere, detecting two new elements.

While our planet provides the protection necessary from harful space radiation, not all planets are quite so lucky. Take for instance Kepler's latest object of interest: KIC 12557548b, a super Mercury-size planet candidate. Astronomers have recently found that due to this star's activity — producing massive stellar flares — the planet itself is evaporating.

Sgr A* will only swallow cold gas, rejecting plenty of hotter gas. Astronomers using the Chandra X-ray telescope have found that less than 1 percent of the gas available to Sgr A* actually accretes on to the black hole.

The inclusion of magnetic fields in exoplanet atmospheric models significantly changes, and actually simplies, the atmospheric circulation of hot Jupiters.



Astronomers have verified that Mrk 273 is the result of a merger between galaxies, with the infrared bright center consisting of two active galactic nuclei — intensely luminous cores powered by supermassive black holes.


The Universe is sizzling with undiscovered phenomena. Only last month astronomers heard four unexpected bumps in the night. Astronomers have found a likely origin for these so-called Fast Radio Bursts: two neutron stars colliding.


New research explains how a supermassive black hole might begin as a normal black hole, tens to hundreds of solar masses, and slowly accrete more matter, becoming more massive over time. The trick is in looking at a binary black hole system.

When it comes to mars, the hot topic of study is water — a prerequisite for life. Scientists at Caltech have just now confirmed the long-held hope in finding recent evidence for a vast Martian ocean.



For the first time we have observed a cloud of gas being ripped apart by the supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy in a process that will take a full year.



Astronomers have observed the largest forming protostar ever seen in our galaxy, weighing in at 500 times the mass of the sun and one million times brighter.



A recent survey used archival data from four different telescopes to analyze hundreds of galaxies. The results provided overwhelming evidence that radio jets protruding from a galactic center enhance star formation — a result that directly contradicts current models, where star formation is hindered or even stopped.

A new study suggests that the number of habitable exoplanets within the Milky Way alone may reach 60 billion.



A team of researchers modeled supernovae explosions and the formation of neutron stars in three dimensions with unprecedented accuracy. It's a bold, new look into the center of the supernova explosion and the birth of a neutron star.


The latest exciting undertaking in exoplanet research is the search for exomoons. After having theoretically proven that detecting an earth-sized exomoon is possible, a team of astronomers carried out the first detailed search for an exomoon.

Greetings, from the Kitt Peak National Observatory, in Arizona! I'm here on a weeklong observing run, which is arguably the coolest and hardest part of the job.



Astronomers at the Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center in Poland recently observed a blue straggler caught in the midst of forming, lending credence to the theory that they emerge from binary pairs.


In "The Grand Design," Stephen Hawking makes the radical claim that philosophy is "dead," because it hasn't kept up with recent developments in science. In reality physics is a very complex process with many outstanding questions. We now have the opportunity to re-unite physics and philosophy — to find a link between understanding reality and reality itself.

A new study sheds light on how hypervelocity stars end up breaking the stellar speed limit. It's likely they are kicked out of binary pairs when the other star undergoes a supernova explosion.



Recent images from the Hubble Space Telescope reveal a much more complex structure of the Ring Nebula than previously thought.


Both Buddhist philosophy and scientific investigation search for Truth based on empirical means only. They are willing to discard accepted or long-held positions if empirical evidence stands in contradiction.

The human intellect is human. It is characteristically flawed, as well as finite in nature. But it certainly makes life worth living.


Astronomers have directly imaged not one but four exoplanets, allowing them to directly detect their atmospheres, noting key elements.



We constantly strive toward Truth, asking questions, finding answers, and asking more questions. Sheer curiosity is our driving force — a compulsion that,in my eyes, makes life worth living.


A clockwork universe, which follows from Newton's laws of motions, gives rise to the notion of determinism.


Most astronomers I come across on a daily basis have a never-ending love for astronomy. It can be seen in the late nights worked and their incessant need to talk about their research. So I wanted to dedicate an article to this single question: why do you love astronomy?

The Kepler mission is suggesting that thousands of multiplanet systems exist in the Milky Way galaxy.



The photometric precision of Kepler now makes the detection of Earth-sized exomoons possible. Astronomers suggest that it will be possible to constrain an exomoon's habitability based on the data available soley at the time they're discovery is confirmed.

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