Benjamin Burress has been a staff astronomer at Chabot Space & Science Center since July 1999. He graduated from Sonoma State University in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in physics (and minor in astronomy), after which he signed on for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps, where he taught physics and mathematics in the African nation of Cameroon. From 1989-96 he served on the crew of NASA’s Kuiper Airborne Observatory at Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA. From 1996-99, he was Head Observer at the Naval Prototype Optical Interferometer program at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ.
Ben Burress's Latest Posts
Investigation of an ancient Martian meteorite has re-fueled a debate about evidence of possible past life on Mars.
Recent observations of the dwarf planet Ceres by the European Herschel Space Observatory have revealed for the first time the presence of water vapor on this object in the Main Asteroid Belt.
On Monday, far beyond the orbit of Mars, an alarm clock went off and a robot began the slow process of waking up after a long, cold sleep. The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft is now approaching the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, which it will catch up with this May.
Let's take a moment to tally a few of 2013's highlights of astronomy and space exploration. In brief, it was a very good year on a number of fronts.
Comet ISON is gone, Comet Lovejoy remains and a sun-grazing asteroid, 3200 Phaeton, is showing comet-like behavior. An interesting December to say the least.
If you had to make a choice to shut down either the Mars rover Curiosity or that explorer of the Saturn system Cassini, would you deliver a pink slip to the young, eager, energetic newbie or force an early retirement on a veteran explorer who has delivered volumes of knowledge?
There's been a great deal of anticipation surrounding Comet ISON—and a great deal of debate about whether it will become a Comet of the Century, or fizzle out like so many other comets of the century have in the past. ISON is now visible in binoculars, which may bode well for a good sky show in the coming weeks.
Over centuries of observing the planet Jupiter, we have but scratched the surface of the deep mysteries held secret beneath its thick clouds. Now NASA's Juno probe, currently en route to the king of planets, is preparing to pierce the veil of Jupiter's mystery and give us a peek inside.
Maybe a week before it passes closest to the sun, the dark side of Comet ISON is expected to begin turning into the sunlight. The sudden exposure to the intense radiation could cause a strong outburst of gases into the coma--like a celestial popcorn kernel suddenly bursting.
NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars has raised some eyebrows by something it has not detected: methane. And, much farther out, the Cassini spacecraft has made a positive detection of plastic in the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan.
The moon often seems like an ancient relic of space exploration, that dusty, dry, airless ball of rock and soil that we visited decades ago and have since left alone—possibly because we found nothing there but dust, rock, and soil? Not so fast. Exploration in the past few years has revealed aspects of the moon that contradict what we were taught in school.
A comet named ISON has been hailed as a possible "comet of the century." But scientists aren't sure yet if it will survive a hairpin turn around the sun.
If you think the list of achievements of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is impressive, consider that its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, will sport a mirror 21 feet across, with more than 20 times the light-collecting capability of its predecessor!
It's time to enjoy the annual Perseid meteors, the Old Faithful of meteor showers that lights up the August night and thoroughly delights those sleepy souls willing to stay up past midnight for one of nature's original fireworks shows.
On July 19, NASA's Cassini probe captured a picture of the Earth and Moon, offering us a perspective of all of humanity on one tiny dot in space, and a reminder that Cassini is still out there exploring the distant reaches of the Solar System.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and its high-powered HiRISE camera has been capturing extremely detailed pictures all over the surface of Mars for a few years now. MRO now reveals a number of surprising, curious, and often captivating landscape features, many of which have inferred the action of dynamic weather processes on Mars.
After ten months of studying a small patch of Mars half a mile from its landing point, NASA's Curiosity rover pulls up stakes, packs its bags and prepares to set forth on a trek to reach the base of Mount Sharp, a layered mound of Martian geologic history with secrets just waiting to be discovered.