April 2005

Hard Evidence for Exoplanetary Image

April 30, 2005

The race to confirm the first image of an exoplanet takes yet another turn with the announcement that a young brown dwarf some 200 light years from Earth really is orbited by a planet that is five times the mass of Jupiter. We looked at this brown dwarf, called 2M1207A, in an entry last September. […]

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Remembering ‘Proxima Centauri’

April 29, 2005

The possible asteroid belt around the star HD69830, covered here in a recent entry, caused several days of pondering and a scouring of the Centauri Dreams library. This exoplanetary belt seems to be 25 times as dense as our own, and as close to its parent star as the orbit of Venus is to ours. […]

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An Asteroid-Based Technical Civilization

April 28, 2005

Is biology as much a driver for interstellar travel as technology? Hungarian engineer Csaba Kecskes argues that it may be so; indeed, biology may hold the answer to Enrico Fermi’s famous ‘where are they?’ question about extraterrestrials. While most scenarios for the growth of technological civilizations assume a ‘galactic empire’ model — colonization modeled after […]

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Cassini Finds Organic Chemistry High Above Titan

April 27, 2005

Scientists anticipated that Titan would be a model laboratory for studying the organic chemistry that eventually led to life on the primitive Earth. So the discovery of complex mixtures of hydrocarbons and carbon-nitrogen compounds came as no surprise. What was unusual was where they found them: in Titan’s upper atmosphere. Organic materials were expected on […]

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Quasar Studies Confirm Einstein Prediction

April 26, 2005

When theories aren’t borne out by observation, the problem just may be the size of the dataset. As witness recent work on gravitational lensing, that phenomenon where light is distorted and magnified by the gravitational pull of galaxies and other matter as it makes its immense journey from distant quasars to the Earth. Such lensing […]

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A Star Sculpture on Hubble’s Anniversary

April 25, 2005

Hard to believe that it was fully fifteen years ago today that the Hubble Space Telescope was placed into orbit from the Space Shuttle Discovery. Hubble’s list of achievements has been outstanding, from detecting proto-galaxies whose light was emitted less than a billion years after the Big Bang to providing data that helped astronomers confirm […]

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Virtual Reality Over a Galactic Network

April 23, 2005

“The prospect of distributing realistic simulations of alien environments throughout the galaxy sheds light on ‘Fermi’s question,’ named after the physicist Enrico Fermi, who is said to have inquired of intelligent extraterrestrials, ‘Where are they?’ The point of Fermi’s question, much elaborated by later thinkers, is that a technically advanced civilization could set up colonies […]

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Asteroid Belt Around a Sun-like Star?

April 22, 2005

Finding solar systems similar to our own is a continuing quest for planet hunters. Now a star called HD69830, some 41 light years from Earth, has been found to contain a thick band of warm dust that may be an asteroid belt. Although planets have yet to be detected around the star, the find is […]

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Near Term Technologies II: SailBeam

April 21, 2005

Centauri Dreams first ran across Jordin Kare’s remarkable SailBeam concept in a report called “High-Acceleration Micro-Scale Laser Sails for Interstellar Propulsion” that the astrophysicist prepared for NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC). The idea seemed outrageously simple: if you accelerate vast numbers of tiny sails rather than one enormous one, you can bring the same […]

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Interstellar Flight Using Near-Term Technologies

April 20, 2005

In a paper called “Interstellar Propulsion Opportunities Using Near-Term Technologies,” Dana G. Andrews (Andrews Space, Seattle) sees two criteria for an interstellar mission. First, it must return results within the lifetime of its principal investigator or the average colonist. Second, it must find cost-effective ways to generate energy and to convert raw energy into directed […]

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