February 2007

Giving Asteroids a Laser Push

February 28, 2007

At the University of Alabama at Huntsville, a team of scientists and engineers is looking into the possibility of identifying and deflecting Earth-endangering asteroids with lasers. Blake Anderton, an engineer at Raytheon Corp., wrote his thesis on the topic. From a UAH news release: Anderton said his thesis discusses “a way to look at asteroids […]

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A Particle Accelerator at Galactic Center?

February 28, 2007

With all the press being given to the Large Hadron Collider under construction at CERN, it’s interesting to see that the black hole believed to exist at the Milky Way’s center — the object called Sagittarius A* — seems to be going it one better. The LHC will be able to accelerate protons to seven […]

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Asteroid Deflection and the Odds

February 27, 2007

What would happen if asteroid 99942 Apophis ever hit the Earth? It’s about 1200 feet in diameter, and according to David Morrison (NASA Ames), that’s large enough to obliterate an area the size of England. The subject was under discussion at the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, and is reported capably […]

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Dark Energy at the South Pole

February 27, 2007

If dark energy is pushing the universe apart at an accelerating clip, when did its effects begin to be felt? One way to study that question is through the Cosmic Microwave Background, whose infinitesimal variations in density and temperature give us an idea of what was happening a scant 400,000 years after the Big Bang. […]

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A Jovian Outpost: The Fifty Year Plan

February 26, 2007

Long-term thinking is a continuing preoccupation in these precincts. For if we lack the ability now to mount human expeditions to the outer planets and to push probes into the Oort Cloud and beyond, the building of our mission concepts is still vital. We go experiment by experiment, paper by paper, creating a foundation for […]

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Rosetta’s Mars Flyby

February 25, 2007

Centauri Dreams usually confines itself to the outer planets and beyond, but this photo of Mars taken by the Rosetta spacecraft’s Philae lander is just too unusual to pass up. You can see one of Rosetta’s solar arrays in the foreground, with the Syrtis region on the Martian surface some 1000 kilometers below. The lander […]

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The Europa Gambit: Part II

February 24, 2007

Most speculation about finding life on Europa revolves around drilling through the perhaps kilometers-deep ice to sample the ocean beneath. But paleobiologist Jere H. Lipps (University of California, Berkeley) envisions a different exercise. Lipps, who has studied polar environments for twelve years in Antarctica, notes that turnover of ice on that continent often brings organisms […]

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Tuning Up the Hall Thruster

February 23, 2007

A nice upgrade to existing satellite engine technology comes out of Georgia Tech, where researchers have developed a design that allows the engine to optimize available power, much like the transmission of a car. Thus the engine can burn at full throttle in ‘first gear,’ maximizing acceleration, while dropping into a much more economical gear […]

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A Workable Photon Drive?

February 22, 2007

A device called a Photonic Laser Thruster is making news since a December demonstration of the technology by its inventor, Young Bae. The founder of the Bae Institute in Tustin CA, Bae has pursued antimatter and fusion research for twenty years at places like SRI International and Brookhaven National Laboratory. His current work on photon […]

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A Far Planet’s Puzzling Clouds

February 22, 2007

Our first ‘sniffs of air from an alien world,’ as David Charbonneau calls them, have brought with them a bit of a surprise. Charbonneau (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) is one of a team of astronomers who have measured the spectrum from the atmosphere of a transiting exoplanet. What the team expected to find was evidence […]

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