Deep Sky Astronomy & Telescopes

Streamers of Gravel near Orion Nebula?

September 2, 2014

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. It’s not just that Frank Drake started Project Ozma on the site in 1960, or that Benjamin Zuckerman and Patrick Palmer ran an Ozma follow-up there in the mid-1970s. I was tracking SETI closely by 1980 or so and […]

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Mapping the Interstellar Medium

August 21, 2014

The recent news that the Stardust probe returned particles that may prove to be interstellar in origin is exciting because it would represent our first chance to study such materials. But Stardust also reminds us how little we know about the interstellar medium, the space beyond our Solar System’s heliosphere through which a true interstellar […]

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To Build the Ultimate Telescope

August 20, 2014

In interstellar terms, a ‘fast’ mission is one that is measured in decades rather than millennia. Say for the sake of argument that we achieve this capability some time within the next 200 years. Can you imagine where we’ll be in terms of telescope technology by that time? It’s an intriguing question, because telescopes capable […]

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Did Stardust Sample Interstellar Materials?

August 18, 2014

Space dust collected by NASA’s Stardust mission, returned to Earth in 2006, may be interstellar in origin. We can hope that it is, because the Solar System we live in ultimately derives from a cloud of interstellar gas and dust, so finding particles from outside our system takes us back to our origins. It’s also […]

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‘Aragoscope’ Offers High Resolution Optics in Space

August 12, 2014

Our recent discussions of the latest awards from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts office remind me that you can easily browse through the older NIAC awards online. But first a word about the organization’s history. NIAC operated as the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts until 2007 under the capable leadership of Robert Cassanova, who shepherded […]

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NIAC: An Orbiting Rainbow

August 8, 2014

Remember Robert Forward’s beamed sail concepts designed for travel to another star? Forward was the master of thinking big, addressing questions of physics which, once solved, left it up to the engineers to actually build the enormous infrastructure needed. Thus his crewed mission to Epsilon Eridani, which would demand not only a large power station […]

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Exploring the Galaxy’s Outer Halo

July 11, 2014

Not long ago we talked about what the Milky Way would look like when seen from afar. I had mentioned Poul Anderson’s World Without Stars, which appeared in Analog in 1966 under the title The Ancient Gods. In the Anderson tale, a starship crew is sent to make contact with a recently discovered technological civilization […]

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The Milky Way from a Distance

July 3, 2014

Growing up in the American Midwest, I used to haunt the library in Kirkwood, Missouri looking for books on astronomy. I had it in mind to read all of them and I pretty much did, looking with fascination at fuzzy images of distant objects I yearned to see close up. What did Saturn look like […]

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Intergalactic Travel via Hypervelocity Stars

June 26, 2014

We’ve been looking at not just interstellar but intergalactic crossings in the past few days, something of an homage to Carl Sagan, whose enthusiasm for continuous acceleration at 1 g and relativistic time dilation was immense in the years shortly after Robert Bussard’s key paper on interstellar ramjets. Without a working ramjet and largely unaided […]

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Gaia: Early Views, Big Prospects

February 18, 2014

We have several months yet before the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission enters its five-year operational phase. But you can see an important milestone in the image below. Gaia’s two telescopes have to be aligned and focused as its other instruments are calibrated. Testing involves downloading data like this image of NGC1818, a young star […]

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