Astronomy

Katy Mersmann / NASA

In the latest installment of Wanna Know Idaho, we asked what you've been wondering about the August 21 solar eclipse in Idaho. We got a lot of great questions, and because this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, Samantha Wright decided to answer all 17 of them.

Jerry Mathes

The August 21 total solar eclipse is less than three weeks away. Towns around Idaho are expecting big crowds of people coming from all over the world to watch the moon cross in front of the sun. Unofficial estimates run as high as 250,000 visitors flooding into the Gem State.

The two-minute blackout is an event that appeals to people for many reasons. Some are coming to be part of a once in a lifetime event. Others are interested in astronomy. What is it about the eclipse that could motivate a quarter million people to come here?

NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (IPAC)

Scientists from Boise State University and the University of Washington are studying a newly found group of planets around a nearby star. They’ll talk about their research Friday night in Boise. Turns out, these planets are good candidates for hosting life outside Earth.

Google and www.eclipse2017.org

It’s a big deal. That’s what one Boise State University professor says about this summer’s total solar eclipse. He's raising money online to help towns and cities prepare for an influx of people hoping to see the eclipse.

Physics professor Brian Jackson says campsites and hotels are already booked up for August 21 across the eclipse path in Idaho. He says Idaho is centrally located for prime eclipse watching.

ESO/M. Kornmesser

Late last month, scientists announced they had found an Earth-like planet around a nearby star. Faraway planets, known as exoplanets, have been found before but this one is relatively close to our sun and is in what’s called the habitable zone around its own star. A researcher from Washington says that means it could be in a position to support life.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

A local astronomer has made his crowdfunding goal and Boise will soon have an observatory again.

Elizabeth Haslam / Flickr

Sunday night will offer a chance to see the last total lunar eclipse until 2018.

This eclipse is special, says Brian Jackson, an astronomer who teaches at Boise State. That’s because it will also be what’s known as a “Blood Moon.”

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

On top of the tallest academic building on the Boise State campus sits a large metal dome. It is an observatory that has been at the school for more than 35 years. At one point, the dome was a hive of activity, giving students and the public a chance to peer deep into our solar system. Now it sits mostly empty and unused, after years of neglect.

Boise State University

A Boise State professor is looking for clues about Earth's origin by studying planets around distant stars.

Brian Jackson is an assistant professor in Boise State’s Department of Physics. He’s using a $271,000 grant from NASA and data from the Kepler space observatory to study planets that are very close to their host stars.

Noah Kroese (I:NK) / http://www.illustrationnk.com/

Could there be plate tectonics on other worlds? One former Idaho scientist thinks it’s possible. Until now, the movement of pieces of a planet’s crust was found nowhere else in the universe except Earth.

It was the late 1990s and University of Idaho planetary geologist Simon Kattenhorn was looking at one of Jupiter's moons named Europa. NASA’s Galileo orbiter took the pictures of it. Using those images, Kattenhorn discovered something remarkable.

Many of us can probably recall maps of the solar system from our school days that showed nine planets, from Mercury to Pluto, orbiting around the sun. All that changed in 2006, when the International Astronomical Association voted to demote Pluto from a real planet to the newly coined category of “dwarf planet,” a move that stirred controversy around the world.