Deep Sky Astronomy & Telescopes

Voyager: Shock Waves in Deep Space

December 17, 2014

What exactly is the shock wave that Voyager 1 encountered earlier this year, a wave that is still propagating outward, according to new data from the craft? Researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory refer to it as a ‘tsunami wave,’ a simile that reminds us of the devastating effects of roiled water as it encounters […]

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WFIRST: The Starshade Option

December 1, 2014

What’s ahead for exoplanet telescopes in space? Ashley Baldwin, who tracks today’s exciting developments in telescope technology, today brings us a look at how a dark energy mission, WFIRST, may be adapted to perform exoplanet science of the highest order. One possibility is the use of a large starshade to remove excess starlight and reveal […]

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The Emergence of Solitary Stars

October 9, 2014

Looking at the latest work from Carnegie’s Alan Boss reminds me once again of the crucial role computers play in astrophysical calculations. We’re so used to the process that we’ve come to take it for granted, but imagine where we’d be without the ability to model complex gravitational systems. To understand planet formation, we can […]

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Space Telescopes Beyond Hubble and JWST

September 12, 2014

Ashley Baldwin tracks developments in astronomical imaging with a passion, making him a key source for me in keeping up with the latest developments. In this follow-up to his earlier story on interferometry, Ashley looks at the options beyond the James Webb Space Telescope, particularly those that can help in the exoplanet hunt. Coronagraph and […]

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A Deep Probe of Planet Formation

September 9, 2014

Surrounding the star HD100546, some 335 light years from Earth in the southern hemisphere constellation Musca (The Fly), is a cloud of gas and dust in the shape of a disk. The young star is 30 times brighter than the Sun and about 2.5 times as large. Sean Brittain (Clemson University) and team have now […]

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Laniakea: Milky Way’s Address in the Cosmos

September 4, 2014

Science fiction writers have a new challenge this morning: To come up with a plot that takes in not just the galaxy and not just the Local Group in which the Milky Way resides, but the far larger home of both. Laniakea is the name of this supercluster, after a Hawaiian word meaning ‘immense heaven.’ […]

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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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