November 2006

The Question of Arecibo

November 17, 2006

The recent National Science Foundation report recommending scaling back support for the Arecibo radio telescope raises eyebrows here. Arecibo has just been instrumental in identifying the near-Earth asteroid 1999 KW4 as a binary, one that provides useful information about the mass, shape and density of its components and hence about near-Earth asteroids in general. That’s […]

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Dark Energy News Multiplies

November 17, 2006

Webster Cash’s New Worlds concept, a starshade and telescope mission to directly image exoplanets, may not have received NASA Discovery funding this time around, but its creator isn’t daunted. In a recent e-mail, Cash called the concept “…so robust that we aren’t even viewing this as a setback. It’s more of a lost opportunity.” But […]

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A Cosmic Ray Pinball Machine

November 16, 2006

Following up on this morning’s post re cosmic rays and the early Earth comes news that the Chandra X-ray Observatory has mapped cosmic ray acceleration in Cassiopeia A, a 325-year-old supernova remnant. The map, showing that electrons are being accelerated close to a theoretically maximum rate, provides evidence that supernova remnants are major contributors of […]

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Early Life Shaped by Star Formation?

November 16, 2006

New work out of the Danish National Space Center (DNSC) suggests a startling connection between star-making in the Milky Way and the evolution of life on Earth. During a period of intense star-creation that began some 2.4 billion years ago, ocean-borne bacteria went through cycles of growth and decline of an intensity never since equalled. […]

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20 New Nearby Stars Discovered

November 15, 2006

Watching the population of nearby stars grow is a chastening exercise. It reminds us that even in our own stellar neighborhood, there is much we have to learn. Consider that since the year 2000, the population of known stars within 10 parsecs (roughly 33 light years) of the Sun has grown by 16 percent. That […]

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Astrobiology Primer a Gem

November 14, 2006

Astrobiology, the study of life as a planetary phenomenon, aims to understand the fundamental nature of life on Earth and the possibility of life elsewhere. To achieve this goal, astrobiologists have initiated unprecedented communication among the disciplines of astronomy, biology, chemistry, and geology. Astrobiologists also use insights from information and systems theory to evaluate how […]

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Minerals, Organics and Early Life

November 14, 2006

Where did our planet get the stuff from which life is made? The sources seem surprisingly diverse, and we’re learning more about how organic materials may have complemented each other in forming life four billion years ago. Extraterrestrial compounds — biomolecules formed in deep space and falling to Earth — probably contributed. And so did […]

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A Hunt for ET in Binary Systems?

November 13, 2006

An interesting story on Seth Shostak’s recent appearances in Athens, OH ran today in The Athens News. In a pair of talks Shostak, senior astronomer for the SETI Institute (Mountain View, CA), explained to a general audience why he thinks extraterrestrial life is out there. He even gave a timeline for its discovery: within the […]

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A Boost for Optical Communications

November 13, 2006

Given how tricky it is to pick up accidental radio signals — “leakage” — from extraterrestrial civilizations, how hard would it be to communicate with our own probes once they’ve reached a system like Alpha Centauri? A front-runner for interstellar communications is the laser. JPL’s James Lesh analyzed the problem in a 1996 paper, concluding […]

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SETI: Don’t Expect an Alien Sitcom

November 11, 2006

Since we’ve kicked around the idea of searching for SETI signals in the television bands (as noted in a previous story on Abraham Loeb and the Mileura Wide-Field Array), it’s interesting to note Seth Shostak’s thoughts on the subject. Because although planet Earth has been broadcasting TV signals for some time now, our transmissions are […]

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