Deep Sky Astronomy & Telescopes

A New Look at the ‘Big Whack’

February 3, 2016

Somewhere a decade or so back in these pages a Centauri Dreams commenter described the event that formed our Moon as ‘the big whack.’ Although I hadn’t run across it before, the phrase turns out to have been common parlance for what is now thought to be a massive collision between the Earth and an […]

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A Telescope Eight Times the Diameter of Earth

February 2, 2016

If you’re looking for detailed imagery of a distant astronomical object, VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry) can deliver the goods. As witness the image below, which the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is calling “the highest resolution astronomical image ever made.” Here we see radio emission from a jet of particles moving close to the […]

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Is Proxima Centauri a Bound Star?

January 19, 2016

About 1.4 million years from now, the K-class star Gliese 710, now 64 light years distant in the constellation Serpens, will brush past our Solar System. Moving to within 50,000 AU, the star could be expected to have an unsettling effect on cometary orbits in the Oort Cloud, perhaps dislodging some of these comets to […]

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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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