August 2007

A Neutron Star in the Neighborhood

August 21, 2007

A long-time old movie buff, I am delighted with the choice of name for a recently discovered neutron star that may be the closest such object to Earth. It’s being called Calvera, after the bandit played so brilliantly by Eli Wallach in the 1960 western The Magnificent Seven. In astronomical terms, the ‘Magnificent Seven’ are […]

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Voyager Interstellar Mission Proceeds

August 20, 2007

I don’t want today to pass without noting that it is the thirtieth anniversary of the launch of Voyager 2. Both Voyagers remain healthy, continuing studies of the solar wind, magnetic fields and energetic particles with their five functioning science instruments. As this JPL news release notes, the Voyagers run on less than 300 watts […]

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Can Titan Keep Its Atmosphere?

August 20, 2007

With the European Planetary Science Congress now in session in Potsdam, we should have several interesting presentations to discuss this week, the first of which involves Titan. Huygens and Cassini have shown us a frigid, rocky surface under a surreal orange cloud of hydrocarbons, a place where liquid methane seems to flow in lakebeds and […]

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Remembering Ronald Bracewell

August 18, 2007

The scientific world has lost a true renaissance man (and indeed, one with an interest in Renaissance-era technology) with the death of Ronald Bracewell. The intellect of the Stanford mathematician, physicist and radio engineer ranged across many disciplines, nursing a fascination with etymology, cataloguing varieties of California trees, developing his university’s radio astronomy capabilities and […]

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The ‘Wow Signal’ Reexamined

August 18, 2007

James Brown continues to run SETI.net, a privately-funded SETI search program using off-the-shelf components and software created by himself. Brown’s work may well be unique, for there seems to be no other working station collecting data that is run by amateur radio astronomers, and that poses a problem for observations like the recent series Brown […]

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Propulsion Clues from a Dark Universe

August 17, 2007

If you had a device that could manipulate the expansion of spacetime, would you have the makings of a stardrive? Miguel Alcubierre’s ‘warp drive’ concept is based on something like this. The physicist’s 1994 paper points out that the speed of light constraint applies to objects moving within spacetime, but makes no prediction about how […]

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Faster than Light in the Laboratory?

August 16, 2007

Can photons move faster than the speed of light? You wouldn’t think so, not if the name ‘Einstein’ has resonance, but Günter Nimtz and Alfons Stahlhofen (University of Koblenz) have been working on so-called quantum tunneling, joining two glass prisms and feeding microwave light into them. Tunneling occurs when a particle jumps an apparently uncrossable […]

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A Frigid Enceladus After All

August 16, 2007

We always knew the surface of Enceladus was cold, but those tantalizing plumes breaking out of the Saturnian moon’s south polar region gave hope of warmer things within. Liquid water fits with one model, pockets of which could account for the occasional geysers of ice crystals mixing with methane, nitrogen and carbon dioxide that Cassini […]

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Carnival of Space #16 Available

August 16, 2007

Carnival of Space #16 is now available at Brian Wang’s Advanced Nanotechnology site. Particularly recommended is an essay we also looked at recently here, Alex Bonnici’s discussion of Dandridge Cole and his visionary outlook on using asteroids for the good of mankind. And you’ll also want to read Mark Whittington’s look at what the next […]

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Mira: Star with a Comet-like Tail

August 15, 2007

GALEX — the Galaxy Evolution Explorer — was an interesting mission to begin with, a space-based observatory conducting an all-sky survey of distant galaxies at ultraviolet wavelengths. Now it’s come up with a real newsmaker, a star moving at an unusually fast 130 kilometers a second and sporting a comet-like tail. The material blowing off […]

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