February 2006

Creating a Traversable Wormhole

February 28, 2006

Can traversable wormholes be created, allowing us to achieve our wildest dreams of traveling between the stars? Mohammad Mansouryar says yes, and in a paper titled “On a macroscopic traversable spacewarp in practice,” the young Iranian theorist lays out his argument. Mansouryar bases his thinking on a needed prerequisite: the violation of the Averaged Null […]

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Cosmic Ray Science from Voyager

February 27, 2006

Are the Voyager spacecraft still doing good science? You bet, as witness the passage of Voyager 1 through the termination shock at the edge of interstellar space. Scientists had assumed the craft’s crossing of this boundary, where the solar wind abruptly slows, would confirm previous theories about anomalous, energetic cosmic rays that were thought to […]

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A New Mission to Find Terrestrial Planets

February 25, 2006

The budgetary demise of Terrestrial Planet Finder has cast a pall over some researchers, but it may have energized an entirely different solution. What if I told you that in the 2013-2015 time frame we may get conclusive images that tell us whether or not there are terrestrial worlds around Tau Ceti, Epsilon Eridani, and […]

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Singular Explosion Points to Stellar Collapse

February 24, 2006

About 440 million light years away in the direction of the constellation Aries is the source of a curious gamma ray burst. Curious because it lasted for nearly 2,000 seconds, while most gamma ray bursts last anywhere from milliseconds to tens of seconds. Moreover, the burst is dimmer than one would expect, which makes scientists […]

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A Counter-rotating Planetary Disk

February 23, 2006

Catching up on interesting stories, Centauri Dreams notes the bizarre case of the counter-rotating disk material around a young star 500 light years from Earth in the direction of Ophiuchus. Of course, we don’t actually know if planets exist there — we may just be looking at planetary formation — but astronomers using the Very […]

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Solar Sail Competition A Possibility

February 22, 2006

A solar sail competition to drive research? It’s a great idea, and one that has been explored in the past. Indeed, a whole variety of groups have looked into the possibility, from France’s Union pour la Promotion de la Propulsion Photonique (U3P) to Russia’s Space Regatta Consortium and the Aero-Club de France. And official rules […]

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Laser Beaming to Boost Solar Sails

February 21, 2006

Solar sails are ideal for long missions within the Solar System, but their manifest advantages (no fuel onboard!) are not unalloyed. A major issue is the time needed to escape Earth orbit. Working the numbers on this, Gregory Benford noted that if a sail used the momentum from solar photons alone, unassisted by any other […]

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Candidate Stars for Terrestrial Worlds

February 20, 2006

Margaret Turnbull (Carnegie Institution of Washington) has a job Centauri Dreams can’t help but envy. The astronomer is a specialist in identifying stars that have habitable zones — stars, in other words, where life is possible. Back in 2003, Turnbull and colleagues published a list of 17,129 such stars, based on factors such as age […]

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Pitching Physics to the Public

February 18, 2006

Ernst Rutherford once said that a good scientist should be able to explain his work to a barmaid. Rutherford’s point was well-taken. He did not mean to say that every layman could or should be brought to understand the details of every scientist’s experiments. But he did believe that scientists have an obligation to communicate […]

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A New Kind of Neutron Star?

February 17, 2006

As if we needed another reminder of how much we have to learn about the galaxy, now comes word that an entirely new kind of cosmic object has been identified. Working with the Parkes radio telescope in eastern Australia, a multi-national team has found a type of neutron star that is all but undetectable most […]

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