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John Glenn: An Arc of Fire

December 9, 2016

John Glenn was 95 when he died, but I have to admit I didn’t think he’d make it to 41. The first American to orbit the Earth was 40 years old when he rode an Atlas rocket into the sky on February 20, 1962. I was a gawky kid, space-crazed, who had read absolutely everything […]

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Antimatter Sail: Focus on Storage

October 18, 2016

An antimatter sail, as described yesterday in the work of Gerald Jackson and Steve Howe, is an exciting idea particularly because it relies on only small amounts of antimatter, tapping its energies to create fission in a uranium-enriched sail. Thus the uranium is the fuel and the antimatter, as Jackson says, is the ‘spark plug.’ […]

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Spiral Density Waves: Clue to Planet Formation?

October 7, 2016

Have a look at the spiral of pinwheeling dust that can be seen around the young star Elias 2-27. We’re looking at gravitational perturbations in a protoplanetary disk that, as this National Radio Astronomy Observatory news release says, mimic the vast arms we expect in a spiral galaxy. But here we’re looking at a process […]

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Spacecoach: Toward a Deep Space Infrastructure

June 28, 2016

With manned missions to Mars in our thinking, both in government space agencies and the commercial sector, the challenge of providing adequate life support emerges as a key factor. We’re talking about a mission lasting about two years, as opposed to the relatively swift Apollo missions to the Moon (about two weeks). Discussing the matter […]

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Stéphane Dumas (1970 – 2016)

June 17, 2016

The interstellar community is a small one, and reporting the loss of one of our number is not easy. SETI researcher Stéphane Dumas, who had been working with Claudio Maccone on the application of the Karhunen–Loève transform (KLT) for SETI observations, has died unexpectedly at his home in Quebec. I remember a wonderful conversation with […]

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KIC 8462852: Where Are We After Eight Months?

May 10, 2016

The unusual star designated KIC 8462852, and now widely known as ‘Tabby’s Star,’ continues to be an enigma. As discussed in numerous articles in these pages, KIC 8462852 shows anomalous lightcurves that remain a mystery. Recently Michael Hippke explored a related question: Was the star dimming over time, as postulated by Louisiana State’s Bradley Schaefer? […]

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Beamed Sail Concepts Over Time

May 9, 2016

If you’ve been following the Breakthrough Starshot concept in these pages and elsewhere, you’ll know that it’s small at one end and big on the other. A beamed sail mission, it would use sails four meters to the side — quite small by reference to earlier beamed sail designs — driven by a massive phased […]

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C/2014 S3: ‘Manx Object’ from the Oort Cloud

May 4, 2016

When you don’t have the technology to get to an interesting place like the Oort Cloud, it’s more than a little helpful when nature brings an Oort Cloud object to you. At least we think that the object known as C/2014 S3 (Pan-STARRS) has moved into the warmer regions of the Solar System from the […]

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SETI: A New Kind of ‘Water Hole’

April 5, 2016

Some of you may recall an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which the inhabitants of a planet called Aldea use a planetary defense system that includes a cloaking device. The episode, “When the Bough Breaks,” at one point shows the view from the Enterprise’s screens as the entire planet swims into view. […]

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Thirteen to Centaurus

March 25, 2016

J. G. Ballard (1930-2009) emerged as one of the leading figures in 20th Century science fiction. His fascination with inner as opposed to ‘outer’ space infused his characters and landscapes with a touch of the surreal, taking the fiction of the space age into deeply psychological realms. Christopher Phoenix here looks at the question of […]

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