November 2005

Tracking the Falcon

November 19, 2005

Centauri Dreams focuses on the long-term, which almost always means deep space missions and interstellar possibilities. But building an industrial infrastructure in the outer Solar System also means finding much less expensive ways into space, a fact illuminated by the upcoming launch of SpaceX’s Falcon rocket from Kwajalein atoll in the Pacific. CEO Elon Musk […]

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Earth Habitable Shortly After Formation

November 19, 2005

Readers who know of Centauri Dreams‘ fascination with ‘deep time’ will not be surprised that I am working on a side project involving past, not future time. Specifically, a study of the Eocene, that remarkable period beginning some 55 million years ago during which the ancestors of most modern mammals — including the higher primates, […]

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The Aesthetics of Extraterrestrial Contact

November 17, 2005

Jon Lomberg has a distinction of which few humans can boast — he knows his art will last. As the designer of the cover of the Voyager Interstellar Record, Lomberg created an aesthetic statement that could, in fact, last for a thousand million years. As could the entire sequence of 120 photographs and diagrams that […]

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FOCAL: Using the Gravitational Lens

November 16, 2005

Among the curious features of a gravitational lens is the way it focuses electromagnetic waves. Supposing we could build a spacecraft like Claudio Maccone’s FOCAL concept, a vehicle designed to reach the Sun’s gravity focus at 550 AU. From that vantage, the electromagnetic radiation from an object occulted by the Sun (i.e., on the other […]

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Nudging an Earth-bound Asteroid

November 15, 2005

The Discovery Channel’s news site offers a brief story about changing the course of an Earth-threatening asteroid. Specifically, the story focuses on a paper in the November 10 issue of Nature by Edward Lu and Stanley Love that offers a new method of avoiding an impact without even touching the asteroid. Previous options had included […]

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Surprise on Barnard’s Star

November 14, 2005

M-class red dwarf stars are of increasing interest in terms of astrobiology. If we can devise weather models that allow for regions of relative stability, a planet locked tidally to its star at a fraction of the distance from Mercury to the Sun could produce conditions suitable for life. The National Geographic show ‘Extraterrestrial,’ shown […]

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Extraterrestrial Life Examined on TV

November 12, 2005

Two shows catch the eye tonight [Saturday] on the National Geographic Channel: Naked Science: “Alien Contact” at 9P et/pt Are we the only intelligent species alive in the universe? Join the quest to separate scientific fact from science fiction in the search for extraterrestrials. “Extraterrestrial” at 10P et/pt A dazzling galactic journey brings you face-to-face […]

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Tracking Cosmic Ray Origins

November 11, 2005

What can you do with 1600 detectors spread out over 3000 kilometers surrounded by an array of 24 telescopes? If you’re in Argentina’s Mendoza Province, the answer is that you can witness the arrival of high-energy cosmic rays. The ‘Cherenkov’ detectors, each containing 3000 gallons of water, detect the passage of the particles while the […]

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Attending Scientific Meetings Online

November 10, 2005

Centauri Dreams sometimes laments the status of our research tools. Bibliographic coverage of the major journals online is spotty; some offer full text but only for recent issues, others are confined to abstracts, and access even at university libraries depends upon the services to which the library has subscribed. Pre-1995 items are rare online. People […]

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Centauri Dreams Update

November 9, 2005

Centauri Dreams was launched with the idea of providing the occasional commentary on space research with interstellar flight implications. What surprised this writer in the past fifteen months has been the fact that an ‘occasional’ schedule just doesn’t work. The news coming in, from exoplanetary discoveries to new research directions in propulsion and robotics, has […]

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