September 2006

A Galaxy Alive with Civilizations

September 19, 2006

The Fermi Paradox (‘Where are they?’) is becoming something of a cottage industry; everyone has an answer. My own hunch is that while life is widespread, technological civilizations are not, with perhaps as few as 5 to 10 active at any given period in the galaxy. But many would disagree with this assessment, including Itzhak […]

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For Cassini, an Unusual Occultation

September 18, 2006

The upcoming solar occultation should be quite an event for Saturn-orbiting Cassini. The Sun will pass directly behind the planet from the spacecraft’s vantage point, and will remain there for twelve hours. New ring structures may turn up in the resulting images, along with views of the D, F, G and E rings that will […]

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Into the Void: Changing Humanity’s Face

September 16, 2006

by Marc Millis Apropos of our recent discussion of species differentiation and what may happen when humans spread into the Solar System and beyond, Marc Millis forwarded a whimsical piece he wrote for Aerospace Frontiers, the internal news publication of NASA Glenn Research Center. The item ran in August of 2000 and makes for an […]

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Finding Biomarkers in an Alien Atmosphere

September 15, 2006

As planet hunters catalog stellar wobbles and light-curves, some of them are working their way down through the various planetary types aiming at the ultimate discovery, an Earth-like world around another star. And if Lisa Kaltenegger has her way, they’ll be able to tell us something about the existence of life on that planet. Kaltenegger […]

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A Baffling New Planetary Discovery

September 14, 2006

A Jupiter-sized planet with the density of cork? The idea seems farcical, but it’s under discussion as I write at a news conference held by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). The planet, called HAT P-1, revolves around ADS 16402, a star much like our Sun that is part of a binary system some 450 […]

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Earliest Galaxies Probed

September 13, 2006

What are being described as the ‘deepest infrared and optical data ever taken’ provide a new picture of the early evolution of the universe. Researchers have observed hundreds of bright galaxies from the era around 900 million years after the Big Bang and compared this catalog with a deeper look 200 million years earlier in […]

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Species Differentiation and Star Travel

September 12, 2006

Freeman Dyson among others has speculated about the physical changes that could occur as the human species spreads into the cosmos. How will evolution deal with a colony world in a distant star system, and how long will it take before serious differentiation begins to occur? For that matter, what about the crew aboard a […]

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Betting on a Long-Term Future

September 11, 2006

The idea of interstellar flight forces long-term speculation. Barring unexpected breakthroughs, we are looking at mission times that, at best, are counted in the decades if not centuries. One of the purposes of Centauri Dreams is to encourage the kind of long-term thinking that plans and executes such missions. That such thinking — focused well […]

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Brown Dwarf or Planet?

September 9, 2006

Following hard on our discussion of HD 3651, a K-class dwarf whose brown dwarf companion was recently imaged, comes news that the Hubble Space Telescope has photographed something smaller still. CHRX 73 B orbits a low-mass red dwarf. Some would consider it a planet, others a brown dwarf; which camp you are in depends on […]

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Collaboration Bags a Transiting Gas Giant

September 8, 2006

Small telescopes doing amazing things. That’s the theme of the day in exoplanet hunting, reinforced by the announcement of a new planet discovered by the Trans-Atlantic Exoplanet Survey (TrES). Small, automated equipment and off-the-shelf camera technology went into this work, which spotted the third transiting planet found with the kind of telescopes available to amateurs. […]

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