November 2004

The NEXT Generation of Ion Propulsion

November 18, 2004

Can ion propulsion really lead the way to the outer planets? No one can know for sure, but recent advances in solar-electric propulsion surely make ion methods a prime candidate. Not only has SMART-1 conducted a thorough ion engine shakedown on its lengthy and circuitious route to the Moon, but a variety of new studies […]

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Remembering ‘Far Centaurus’

November 17, 2004

Although it originally ran in the January, 1944 issue of Astounding, I first ran into A.E. Van Vogt’s “Far Centaurus” in a collection of short stories called Destination: Universe (New York: Signet Books, 1952). It would be hard today to re-create the power of the story’s opening, so imbued have we become with reality-stretching concepts, […]

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To the Peak of Eternal Light

November 16, 2004

It used to be said that the Sun never set on the British Empire. Those days may be long gone, but there is still a place where the Sun forever shines, and it’s on the Moon. The Peak of Eternal Light is a mountain at the lunar south pole that is always in view of […]

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Cosmos 1 Launch Date Set

November 15, 2004

The Planetary Society has announced that its Cosmos 1 solar sail is to be launched on March 1, 2005. A letter to members from executive director Louis Friedman, who worked on NASA sail designs for an aborted Halley’s comet mission in the 1970s, called Cosmos 1 ‘the world’s first solar sail spacecraft.’ And indeed it […]

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Starlight Off an Alien Sea

November 13, 2004

Terrestrial Planet Finder will one day help us detect Earth-like worlds around other stars, no matter which technologies are deployed (Centauri Dreams remains an advocate of Webster Cash’s New Worlds Imager). But once we start finding such worlds, what sort of data signatures should we look for to help us identify habitable surface environments? That […]

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Young Planet Confirmed Around Star in Taurus

November 12, 2004

An extrasolar planet the size of Neptune is news, and when that planet is in an orbit roughly analagous to Neptune’s in our own solar system, researchers take special note. After all, almost all the planets we’ve discovered around other stars are huge gas giants orbiting extremely close to their parent stars. And this extrasolar […]

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Icy Worlds Beyond Pluto

November 11, 2004

Roughly 1,000 Kuiper Belt objects have been discovered orbiting beyond Neptune since the first was found in 1992. Now researchers are suggesting that these icy objects — considered to be leftover building blocks of the solar system — are much smaller than was originally thought. The key is albedo, a measure of how much light […]

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New Keck Images Show Power of Adaptive Optics

November 10, 2004

We’ve talked about adaptive optics here recently, particularly in regard to the W.M. Keck observatory complex at Mauna Kea (Hawaii). Keck’s new adaptive system essentially removes atmospheric distortion and improves data processing of the raw image. What you wind up with is a stunningly clear view, as has become apparent in new images of Uranus […]

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Slingshot to the Outer Planets?

November 9, 2004

The conference of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society continues in Louisville. Among the papers presented at today’s Advanced Propulsion session were three of particular interest for interstellar advocates. Les Johnson, who heads up NASA’s In-Space Propulsion Technology Program, gave an overview on the technology portfolio now being examined. “Some of […]

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Cassini and the Kuiper Belt

November 8, 2004

When it comes to interstellar work, don’t forget the Kuiper Belt. Although amateur astronomer Kenneth Edgeworth was the first to predict its existence, the Belt was named for Gerard Kuiper, who analyzed it in 1951. It is a region of thousands (and perhaps millions) of small, icy moons and cometary debris that exists from the […]

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