December 2006

Carl Sagan Remembered

December 20, 2006

When I think about Carl Sagan, the tenth anniversary of whose death we remember today, the first thing that comes to mind is a quote about the wonders of relativistic interstellar flight. It’s worth quoting at length: If for some reason we were to desire a two-way communication with the inhabitants of some nearby galaxy, […]

Read the full article →

On Ancient Starlight

December 19, 2006

What were the first objects in the universe? They may have been enormous stars a thousand times more massive than the Sun. If so, new observations suggest the apparent clusters found by the Spitzer Space Telescope could be the first galaxies, tiny by Milky Way standards and containing the mass of less than a million […]

Read the full article →

Probing the Spaces Without and Within

December 18, 2006

Now here’s a grand idea for a book: describe propulsion systems that can propel spacecraft with little or no fuel onboard. That’s just what Greg Matloff and NASA’s Les Johnson are doing with their new title Living Off the Land in Space (Copernicus & Praxis), which should be available come January. Matloff (New York City […]

Read the full article →

Remembering Project Daedalus

December 16, 2006

Centauri Dreams defers to no one in admiration of Project Daedalus, the 1970s-era starship design that emerged from the British Interplanetary Society. It’s a pleasure to see continuing interest in the craft, as witness Alan Bellows’ backgrounder about it on the Damn Interesting site. Daedalus was the first serious and thorough design for a starship, […]

Read the full article →

A New Model for ‘Cold Faithful’

December 15, 2006

It would be easy to keep this site filled with outer Solar System news, so various and captivating are the images that stream in from our spacecraft. Exoplanet studies keep us focused primarily on nearby stars, but I do want to keep up with Cassini, and decided some time back that Centauri Dreams would leave […]

Read the full article →

More on Red Dwarf Planet-Hunting

December 14, 2006

If you’re thinking about detecting Earth-like planets around other stars, here’s an item that may set the pulse racing a bit faster. Michael Endl, who is an expert at the planet hunt around red dwarf stars (he’s searched for planets around 100 of them already), notes that the diminutive objects are prime targets for exoplanet […]

Read the full article →

Titan’s Peaks and Other Lands Unknown

December 13, 2006

If you’ve seen the Sierra Nevadas, you know what Bob Brown is talking about when he likens the mountain range found on Titan to those beautiful peaks in the western United States. Brown (University of Arizona) is team leader of the Cassini visual and infrared mapping spectrometer. Cassini was able to resolve features down to […]

Read the full article →

Focus on Massive Stars

December 12, 2006

What got me interested in Pismis 24-1 was simply the image. It’s one of those spectacular displays we’ve come to expect from Hubble, obtained using the telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. Pismis 24-1 is part of the open cluster Pismis 24, some 8000 light years from Earth in the nebula NGC 6357 in Sagittarius. The […]

Read the full article →

Excluding Alpha Centauri Planets

December 11, 2006

You would think Alpha Centauri would be a prime hunting ground for extrasolar planets simply because of its proximity. But the problem for direct imaging is the sheer brightness of Centauri A and B, creating a halo of diffuse light around the pair. Getting through the glare isn’t easy, but a search based on twin […]

Read the full article →

Solar Sailing in the Near Term

December 9, 2006

I don’t want to move past Gregory and James Benford’s interesting sail ideas without pausing to examine another paper that ran in the preceding issue of JBIS. It’s a look at what we might do in the near-term with solar sails, written by Gregory Matloff (CUNY), Travis Taylor (BAE Systems) and collaborators. And it focuses […]

Read the full article →