Astrobiology and SETI

Bradley Schaefer: Further Thoughts on the Dimming of KIC 8462852

May 24, 2016

Is the anomalous star KIC 8462852 undergoing a long-term dimming or not? We’ve looked at Bradley Schaefer’s work on the star and the follow-ups disputing the idea from Michael Hippke and Daniel Angerhausen (NASA GSFC), with collaboration from Keivan Stassun and Michael Lund (both at Vanderbilt University) and LeHigh University’s Joshua Pepper. Dr. Schaefer (Louisiana […]

Read the full article →

A Kickstarter Campaign for KIC 8462852

May 23, 2016

If the star KIC 8462852 is on your mind — and the lively and continuing comments threads on the topic in these pages suggest that it is — you’ll want to know about a new campaign to support further study. ‘Tabby’s Star,’ as it is informally known (after Tabetha Boyajian, whose work at the Planet […]

Read the full article →

Perspectives on Cosmic Archaeology

May 3, 2016

I’ve always found the final factor in the Drake Equation to be the most telling. Trying to get a rough idea of how many other civilizations there might be in the galaxy, Drake looked at factors ranging from the rate of star formation to the fraction of planets suitable for life on which life actually […]

Read the full article →

Gravitational Lensing with Planets

April 26, 2016

As we’ve been talking about the Sun’s gravitational focus, it’s interesting to reflect on the history of its study. Albert Einstein’s thinking about gravitational lensing in astronomy was explicitly addressed in a 1936 paper, but it wasn’t until 1964 that Stanford’s Sydney Liebes produced the mathematics behind lensing at the largest scale, working with the […]

Read the full article →

Breakthrough Discuss: SETI in the Optical

April 21, 2016

At the Yuri’s Night party on Yuri Milner’s Palo Alto estate, I found myself thinking about a novel, Allen Steele’s Arkwright. Like Breakthrough Starshot, initial work on the starship in the book is funded by a wealthy man who wants to see a human future among the stars. The propulsion method is a beam-driven sail, […]

Read the full article →

Alpha Centauri, SETI and Detectability

April 20, 2016

Heading for the hotel lobby the first night of the Breakthrough Discuss meeting, I thought about a major theme of the Breakthrough Starshot initiative: Making things smaller. Robert Forward wrote about sails hundreds of kilometers in diameter, and vast lenses deep in the Solar System to collimate a laser beam that would drive them. But […]

Read the full article →

A Transit Signature for SETI?

April 4, 2016

David Kipping and Alex Teachey have a new paper out on the possibility of ‘cloaking’ a planetary signature. The researchers, both at Columbia University, make the case that any civilization anxious to conceal its existence — for whatever reason — would surely become aware that all stars lying along its ecliptic plane would see transits […]

Read the full article →

SETI Looks at Red Dwarfs

March 31, 2016

When it comes to astrobiology, what we don’t know dwarfs what we do. After all, despite all conjecture, we have yet to find proof that life exists anywhere else in the universe. SETI offers its own imponderables, adding on to the question of life’s emergence. How often does intelligence arise, and if it does, how […]

Read the full article →

Into the ‘Transit Zone’

March 9, 2016

Given how powerful the transit method has proven for detecting exoplanets, we can assume great things are ahead. It won’t be that many years before we’re actually analyzing the atmospheric constituents of worlds much smaller than the gas giants for which we perform such studies now. That would make it possible for us to discover […]

Read the full article →

SETI: Knowing Where to Look

March 8, 2016

Running a site like Centauri Dreams means adapting and reconfiguring on a daily basis. The best laid plans and all that… When I wrote recently about the SETI efforts at KIC 8462852, my plan had been to follow up that discussion with a broader SETI issue — where is the best place in the sky […]

Read the full article →