March 2005

Using the Transit Method for SETI Detections

March 31, 2005

Every study using transit methods to detect objects around other stars is looking for planets. But a paper by Luc Arnold (Observatoire de Haute-Provence, France), soon to be published in The Astrophysical Journal, suggests that the same methods could be employed to find artificial planet-sized objects in orbit around stars. Arnold sees this as a […]

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A New Take on Artificial Intelligence

March 30, 2005

An intelligent computer that can operate autonomously is the heart of any interstellar robotic probe. In an important sense, it would be the probe, running its systems, adjusting its course, repairing damage, conducting experiments and choosing the future direction of its own research. We’re a long way from such autonomy, but a new company called […]

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Looking for Life Around Red Giants

March 29, 2005

Should we narrow the search for life-bearing planets to Sun-like stars? The answer may be ‘no’ if we take age into account, according to a new study from an international team of astronomers. Stars well into their red-giant phase may have actually revived outer, icy planets to offer them a chance at developing living ecosystems […]

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‘Deep Impact’ Mission in Cruise Phase

March 28, 2005

NASA’s Hubble, Spitzer and Chandra space telescopes will all be watching in July when the Deep Impact spacecraft releases its impactor module (about the size of a coffee table) into the path of onrushing comet Tempel 1. Deep Impact’s flyby module will be watching, too, as the impactor creates a crater that may be anywhere […]

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Out onto the Wine-Dark Sea

March 26, 2005

“From time to time, alarm has been expressed at the danger of a ‘sensory deprivation’ in space. Astronauts on long journeys, it has been suggested, will suffer the symptoms that afflict men who are cut off from their environment by being shut up in darkened, soundproofed rooms. “I would reverse this argument: our culture will […]

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Survey Finds Mysterious ‘Dark Accelerators’

March 25, 2005

The central part of the Milky Way has never been surveyed in gamma ray wavelengths with the sensitivity offered by HESS, the High Energy Stereoscopic System. And as announced in the March 25th issue of Science, the HESS team has not only found eight new very high energy (VHE) gamma ray sources in the galactic […]

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Defining Habitable Zones in the Galaxy

March 24, 2005

When is a planet habitable? The assumption, in studies of the ‘circumstellar habitable zone’ (CHZ) ranging back as far as 150 years, is that a planet is habitable if liquid water can be maintained on its surface. That this is a ‘life as we know it’ scenario is obvious: it works best if you assume […]

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The Light of Distant Worlds

March 23, 2005

As discussed in yesterday’s entry, being able to work with actual light from distant planets is a major breakthrough. It opens the possibility of studying characteristics like temperature and atmospheric composition, further fusing astronomy with the nascent science of astrobiology. And with the Spitzer Space Telescope’s proven ability to make such observations, we can expect […]

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Confirmed Detection of Extrasolar Planets’ Light

March 22, 2005

Light from two planets orbiting other stars has now been directly detected by the Spitzer Space Telescope, in findings announced today at a NASA news conference. Spitzer scrutinized both planets using the ‘transit’ method, in which a planet eclipses its star and blocks a small fraction of its light. The space-based telescope has been able […]

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Extrasolar Planet Announcement Moved to Today

March 22, 2005

“Astronomers will announce major findings about planets outside our solar system, known as extrasolar planets, at a NASA Science Update at 3 p.m. EST today.” So says a media advisory just out from the agency. NASA TV plans to carry the event, which will discuss discoveries made by the Spitzer Space Telescope. The panelists: Dr. […]

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