December 2004

JPL Releases Iapetus Flyby Map

December 31, 2004

The dark terrain of the Cassini Regio on Iapetus will be the imaging target of the Cassini Saturn orbiter as it whisks past the moon at 2 kilometers per second later today. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has released this map of the image coverage area. The regions Cassini will view at different imaging scales are […]

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SETI Institute’s Shostak on the Allen Telescope Array

December 31, 2004

In The New and Improved SETI, the SETI Institute’s Seth Shostak weighs in on the Allen Telescope Array, the radio telescope installation that should give a boost to the SETI search as well as offering key research tools to more conventional astronomy. Shostak lists three advantages the ATA will offer SETI researchers, perhaps the most […]

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Iapetus Flyby Next for Cassini

December 30, 2004

Cassini’s post-Huygens separation maneuver occurred without incident on December 27. The course change was needed both to prevent Cassini from following the free-falling Huygens probe into Titan’s atmosphere and to set up the required positioning for communications between Cassini and Huygens during the latter’s atmospheric entry and descent. Cassini will make a close pass of […]

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New Telescope Should Boost SETI Search

December 29, 2004

290 miles northeast of San Francisco, the University of California at Berkeley and the SETI Institute are building an observatory for galactic and extragalactic radio astronomy at Hat Creek. The Paul Allen Telescope Array (ATA 32), named after Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who is a major donor for the project, is to consist of 350 […]

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Near-Earth Asteroid No Longer a Threat

December 28, 2004

The possibility that a near-Earth asteroid might strike the planet in 2029 has now been ruled out. Asteroid 2004 MN4 had attained press prominence when it emerged that the 400 meter object would pass near the Earth on April 13, 2029, with the odds on impact rising to 1 in 300. That alone made for […]

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Image Captures Departing Huygens Probe

December 27, 2004

The Huygens probe, captured in the photograph below as it departs from the Cassini Saturn orbiter, is now on course for its January 14th descent into Titan’s atmosphere. Look for the probe in the upper right quadrant of the image. Huygens’ separation from Cassini was achieved by firing explosive bolts; the probe was then pushed […]

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A Thought for the Holidays

December 25, 2004

Huygens is now safely on its way. More on this, and on Cassini’s post-separation course correction, next week. Until then, best wishes for the holidays, along with a thought from Arthur C. Clarke’s Interplanetary Flight: An Introduction to Astronautics (London: Temple Press Limited, 1960): There is no way back into the past; the choice, as […]

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Huygens Poised for Separation

December 24, 2004

The Huygens probe separation from the Cassini Saturn orbiter is scheduled to occur late this evening; according to this JPL press release, NASA expects a confirmation of the maneuver around 11 PM EST. The probe, which has been attached to Cassini for the seven-year trip to Saturn, has remained in sleep mode except for periodic […]

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Understanding Massive Terrestrial Worlds Around Other Stars

December 24, 2004

Diana Valencia, a graduate student at Harvard, has been working with professor of geophysics Richard O’Connell in a study of the possible internal structure of large terrestrial planets around other stars. Their presentation “Internal Structure and Scaling Laws of Massive Terrestrial Planets” was given at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting. From the abstract: “The […]

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New Camera Could Detect Red Dwarfs Closer than Centauri

December 23, 2004

The UK’s new Wide Field Camera (WFCAM) has just begun operations at the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope site in Hawaii. WFCAM is designed to survey huge swathes of the sky at infrared (heat radiation) wavelengths, and should be able to work with deep sky objects as well as close brown dwarfs and other stars that, […]

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