August 2006

The FOCAL Mission: To the Sun’s Gravity Lens

August 18, 2006

One of the great missions for the 21st century could be FOCAL — a space probe sent to the Sun’s gravity lens some 550 AU out. Gravitational lensing is becoming a major tool for astronomers, and we’ve even seen planetary detections using microlensing, looking at targets in the direction of galactic center and the faint […]

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Planet Formation in Orion

August 17, 2006

The Spitzer Space Telescope has peered into the Orion nebula with striking results: nearly 2300 planet-forming disks in the overall Orion cloud complex, a star-forming region some 1450 light years from Earth. This is where infrared truly shines, for such disks are too small to be seen with visible-light telescopes. But Spitzer is made to […]

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Ceres and Charon: A Matter of Gravity

August 16, 2006

Someone with more cultural insight than Centauri Dreams will have to explain why the designation of Pluto as a planet has captivated so large an audience. The issue is front page on my local newspaper this morning and I’m being asked about it by people who have never shown the slightest interest in space exploration. […]

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Cosmological Blogging from Prague

August 15, 2006

When is a galactic grouping ‘compact’? Take a look at the four closely grouped galaxies in the image below; they’re most of the galaxies in Stephan’s Quintet (the fifth is off-image to the lower right). Redshift measurements indicate that the top three of these are at the same distance from us, about 300 million light […]

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Going Interstellar at Princeton

August 14, 2006

The annual New Trends in Astrodynamics and Applications conference meets for the third time this week in Princeton, with Ed Belbruno calling the house to order on Wednesday. From an interstellar perspective, this year’s conference is packed — last year we had but three interstellar papers, whereas the 2006 meeting will feature two complete sessions […]

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Pioneer and ‘The Long Result’

August 12, 2006

It was Tennyson whose narrator, recalling youthful wanderings and celestial vistas in the poem ‘Locksley Hall,’ wrote about ‘the fairy tales of science, and the long result of Time.’ That long result is something we seldom look at in our feverish and accelerated world, but in these closing paragraphs from a book written with Chesley […]

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A Novel Strategy for Asteroid Deflection

August 11, 2006

With the recent knowledge that half of all near-Earth asteroids are binaries, the stakes go up in the race to develop technologies to prevent potential impacts. But is the best solution what Centauri Dreams has always advocated, to intercept the approaching object as far from Earth as possible and alter its trajectory? A new paper […]

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Simulated Planets Around Centauri B

August 10, 2006

Centauri A and B continue to stand out as likely venues for terrestrial planets. What a change since the days when it was thought orbits in binary systems like this one would be completely unstable. Today we believe that both the major Centauri stars could support small, rocky worlds within about 4 AU, and that […]

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A Stellar ID Through Microlensing

August 9, 2006

Gravitational microlensing is a fascinating way to find exoplanets, provided you’re not worried about nearby targets. For the best way to do microlensing of this sort is to work with a crowded starfield, which means looking toward galactic center, where stars are numerous and distant enough that their lensing events can be studied. You’re hoping […]

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Of Consciousness and the Machine

August 9, 2006

Igor Aleksander (University College, London) is a specialist in neural systems engineering who is working on emerging consciousness in machines, a process he calls ‘more basic’ than artificial intelligence. Velcro City Tourist Board offers up an interview with Aleksander that gets into models of the mind and the meaning of consciousness itself. A snippet: “There’s […]

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