October 2006

The Missing Discovery Mission

October 31, 2006

Having championed Webster Cash’s New Worlds Imager in earlier posts, Centauri Dreams was nonplussed yesterday to see NASA’s list of concept study selections for Discovery-class missions. Chosen for further work and 1.2 million in funding each were an asteroid sample return mission, a Venus orbiter, and a mission to produce a gravity field map of […]

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Monster of the Milky Way

October 30, 2006

US readers should be aware of Monster of the Milky Way, a PBS program on Nova that’s scheduled to air tomorrow evening. It’s about the search for supermassive black holes in the center of galaxies and ties in nicely with this morning’s post on galactic jets. Those of you with high-definition sets are in for […]

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New Clues to Galactic Jets

October 30, 2006

M 87, an elliptical galaxy 50 million light years away in the constellation Virgo, houses a gigantic black hole. The object amounts to 3 billion solar masses and is apparently the source of the huge jet of particles and magnetic waves shown in the image below. That conclusion comes from work proceeding in Namibia as […]

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Reconsidering Viking on Mars

October 28, 2006

The day the first Viking lander touched down on Mars is still fresh in my memory, particularly the early confusion about the real color of the Martian sky (which had seemed, by data misinterpretation, to be a rich blue). Then the excitement about possible life through experiments combing through the top few inches of Martian […]

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COROT and the Hunt for Rocky Worlds

October 27, 2006

The COROT mission, to be launched in December, promises to move us to the next level of planetary detection. Devoted to studying exoplanet transits, in which a planet crosses the face of its star as seen from Earth, the space telescope will probably detect numerous ‘hot Jupiters.’ But an even more interesting possibility is rocky […]

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A Sky Ablaze with Stars

October 26, 2006

Here’s something to think about, or better, try to visualize on an evening when there’s good celestial viewing outside. A typical globular star cluster holds several hundred thousand stars. Out on the periphery of such systems, the stars are relatively widely spaced. But move into the center and you’ll find stars packed thousands of times […]

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Deepening Our View of Mass Extinctions

October 25, 2006

Finding single reasons for major events is curiously satisfying. Thus the notion that an asteroid strike did away with the dinosaurs — pinning their mysterious demise on one hammerblow from outer space makes sense out of what had seemed inexplicable. But a new theory challenges the single-cause notion of mass extinctions, and questions whether sudden […]

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Deep Bacteria Hint at Life’s Ubiquity

October 24, 2006

From South Africa comes news of a striking find: bacteria living two miles beneath the surface and, more significantly, dependent only on the sulphur and hydrogen produced by geological processes rather than on the energy of the Sun. That life should form in such remote venues seems extraordinary, but the finding gives credence to the […]

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WISE: Finding Nearby Brown Dwarfs

October 23, 2006

Among the plans for NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) is a research agenda some of us have been hoping for for years. Designed to scan the entire sky in infrared light, the spacecraft should be able to locate nearby brown dwarfs. The possibility that one or more of these dim objects might actually be […]

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Odds and Ends for the Weekend

October 21, 2006

Cory Doctorow offers a podcast with George Dyson that’s well worth your time, recalling among other things the remarkable days of Project Orion, in which Dyson’s father Freeman played so large a role. Note too that Dyson provided some documents from his own collection, now released for the first time and made available here. No […]

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