July 2006

An Updated Catalog of Nearby Exoplanets

July 19, 2006

Hard to believe that it’s been over ten years now since the discovery of 51 Peg B, the first exoplanet found around a main sequence star. So much has happened since, including over 160 exoplanet candidates identified within 200 parsecs, with most of these discovered through Doppler search methods examining radial velocities (although the nearby […]

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Terrestrial Planets and Close Binaries

July 18, 2006

We’ve recently discussed Greg Laughlin and Jeremy Wertheimer’s work on the possible role of Proxima Centauri in destabilizing the Centauri A and B debris disk and bringing volatiles to the inner system. Our deepening knowledge of the Centauri system is one of the most energizing aspects of the exoplanet hunt, for its proximity inexorably makes […]

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Keeping an Eye on New Horizons

July 17, 2006

With New Horizons now six months out and closer to Jupiter than it is to the Sun, the creatively-acronymed Jupiter Encounter Science Team (JEST) has turned in its observation plan. New Horizons will pick up a gravity assist from the gas giant in February of 2007, on its way to the 2015 encounter with the […]

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Two Ways to Look at the Future

July 15, 2006

Stewart Brand is a leading proponent of long-term thinking, the sort of thing that builds cathedrals and, perhaps one day, starships. In this excerpt from his book The Clock of the Long Now (New York: Basic Books, 1999), Brand discusses science fiction and the various forms of futurism. According to Kevin Kelly, ‘Isaac Asimov once […]

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ET in a Grain of Sand?

July 14, 2006

Centauri Dreams was amazed to realize that almost two years have passed since Christopher Rose and Gregory Wright posed a bold challenge to SETI researchers. In an article in the September 2 (2004) issue of Nature (a cover story, no less), the duo suggested that we are more likely to achieve extraterrestrial contact through artifacts […]

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Building Toward Computer Autonomy

July 13, 2006

We don’t talk as much as we might about computer autonomy here, perhaps because it’s obvious that the biggest challenge facing interstellar flight is propulsion. But it’s clear that we need computer systems with fully autonomous characteristics on the kind of decades-long robotic missions that might eventually be flown. We’ll want such probes to have […]

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On Starshades and Planetary Threats

July 12, 2006

The possibility of deflecting an incoming asteroid became more problematic in early July. That’s when David Polishook and Noah Brosch (both of Tel Aviv University) presented evidence that the number of binary asteroids near the Earth might be much higher than originally thought. Binaries might, in fact, comprise more than fifty percent of all NEAs. […]

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Anomalous Supernova Remnant Investigated

July 11, 2006

Supernova remnant RCW103 is not exactly a new discovery. In fact, it was found over 25 years ago, the survivor of an explosion that took place in the early days of the Roman empire, though visible only in southern skies. And as you would expect, the area in question looks to be fairly standard issue […]

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A Relativistic Probe to Alpha Centauri

July 10, 2006

Good space science comes from unexpected quarters. When I interviewed the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s James Lesh about his thinking on communicating with a probe around Alpha Centauri, he pointed out how much can be gained by simply studying the signal sent by a spacecraft. Here in the Solar System, we’ve seen how that signal is […]

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On Migrating Gas Giants and their Effects

July 8, 2006

We may not have images of terrestrial planets around another star yet, but many things can be learned about such worlds by computer simulation. A team of British astronomers, for example, has examined known exoplanetary systems in hopes of isolating those in which Earth-like worlds could exist in stable and habitable orbits. This is tricky […]

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