Deep Sky Astronomy & Telescopes

Stellar Age: Recalibrating Our Tools

January 5, 2016

Making the call on the age of a star is tricky business. Yet we need to master the technique, for stellar age is a window into a star’s astrophysical properties, important in themselves and for understanding the star in the context of its interstellar environment. And for those of us who look at SETI and […]

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‘Time Delays’ and Exploding Stars

December 30, 2015

With our focus on nearby stars for both exoplanet detection and SETI work, I don’t often find the time to talk about cosmology and ‘deep sky’ observations, although galaxy structure and formation are an interest of mine. But today I have a story too good to pass up, involving using gravitational lensing and time delays […]

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ACEsat: Alpha Centauri and Direct Imaging

December 4, 2015

A dedicated spacecraft just to investigate the Alpha Centauri system? I’ve been fascinated with the nearest stars since boyhood, so the ACEsat concept Ashley Baldwin writes about today would have my endorsement. But budgetary realities and practical mission planning might demand a larger instrument capable of studying more distant targets. Dr. Baldwin, a committed amateur […]

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Extraterrestrial Life: The Giants are Coming…

September 11, 2015

Finding a biological marker in the atmosphere of an exoplanet is a major goal, but as Ignas Snellen argues in the essay below, space-based missions are not the only way to proceed. A professor of astronomy at Leiden University in The Netherlands, Dr. Snellen makes a persuasive case that technologies like high dispersion spectroscopy and […]

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The Shape of Space Telescopes to Come

September 4, 2015

Planning and implementing space missions is a long-term process, which is why we’re already talking about successors to the James Webb Space Telescope, itself a Hubble successor that has yet to be launched. Ashley Baldwin, who tracks telescope technologies deployed on the exoplanet hunt, here looks at the prospects not just for WFIRST (Wide-Field InfraRed […]

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A Supernova Trigger for Our Solar System

August 19, 2015

The interactions between supernovae and molecular clouds may have a lot to tell us about the formation of our own Solar System. Alan Boss and Sandra Keiser (Carnegie Institution for Science) have been exploring the possibility that our system was born as a result of a supernova ‘trigger.’ Their new paper follows up on work […]

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Rosetta’s Day in the Sun

August 13, 2015

Today is perihelion day for the European Space Agency’s Rosetta orbiter and the doughty Philae lander that, we can hope, may still be taking data even if we can’t talk to it. Celebrating the event, ESA has made available a new interactive viewer based on images taken with Rosetta’s navigation camera (NAVCAM). At the end […]

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A Cosmological Fade to Black

August 12, 2015

Some writers immerse us so deeply in time that present-day issues are dwarfed by immensity. I always think of Olaf Stapledon and Star Maker (1937) in this regard, but consider Arthur C. Clarke’s The City and the Stars (1956), in which we see the city Diaspar on the Earth of a billion years from now. […]

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The View from Outside the Galaxy

June 5, 2015

The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) has recently released a video (viewable here on YouTube) showing how a number of celestial objects might look if they were substantially closer to Earth than they are. The image of the Andromeda galaxy and its trillion stars projected against an apparent Earthscape is below. Unfortunately, this seems to […]

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Perytons: A Microwave Solution

April 15, 2015

Radio bursts scant milliseconds long that have been reported at the Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales — so-called ‘perytons’ — turn out to be the product of microwave ovens. The Case of the Puzzling Perytons, as Earl Stanley Gardner might have titled it, appeared in these pages earlier, with alliteration intact, when Jim […]

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