November 2007

Two Views of a Stellar System in the Making

November 30, 2007

A flattened envelope of gas and dust surrounding the young protostar L1157 gives us some idea of what our Solar System may have looked like as it began to form. The object is only a few thousand years old, the central star hidden, with its envelope detectable in silhouette as a black bar. The view […]

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Voyager 2 Closes on Termination Shock

November 29, 2007

When I use the term ‘interstellar mission,’ people assume I’m talking about a far future crewed mission to a star like Alpha Centauri or Epsilon Eridani. But the two Voyager spacecraft are on an interstellar mission of a sort, meaning they’re eventually going to leave the Solar System entirely and head into true interstellar space. […]

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Messier 74 In All Its Glory

November 29, 2007

Image (click to enlarge): Hubble has sent back an early Christmas card with this new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of the nearby spiral galaxy Messier 74. It is an enchanting reminder of the impending season. Resembling glittering baubles on a holiday wreath, bright knots of glowing gas light up the spiral arms; regions of […]

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On Planets in the Galactic Bulge

November 28, 2007

One thing we’d like to know about exoplanets is where they are likely to be found. We’ve located more than 250 of them, but most are confined within about 650 light years. That’s very much in the local neighborhood by galactic standards — our methods have led us to nearby, bright stars. We do have […]

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Interstellar Sails and Their Precursors

November 27, 2007

Lou Friedman’s work on solar sails dates back to his days at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where, in the 1970s, his team began work on a rendezvous mission with Halley’s Comet. It was a mission that never flew, but you can read about its planning stages in Friedman’s book Starsailing: Solar Sails and Interstellar Travel […]

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Mothra Invades the Science Cabaret

November 26, 2007

By Larry Klaes The Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday in the States is always gloomy as people readjust to work after the long weekend. So let’s do something light-hearted for today with a look at what evolution can produce in the hands of Japanese film directors. Larry Klaes considers Mothra, a tale of a small […]

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Planetary Systems in Miniature

November 24, 2007

‘Planemos’ are planetary mass objects not much larger or heavier than Jupiter. The emerging technical term for them is ‘isolated planetary mass objects’ (IPMO), although the nomenclature is still evolving. Back in 2006, Ray Jayawardhana (University of Toronto) challenged the American Astronomical Society’s Calgary meeting to consider how our definition of ‘planet’ is blurred by […]

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Is Luna a Celestial Rarity?

November 23, 2007

Having just written about dust formation around HD 23514, a Sun-like star in the Pleiades, I was drawn to this quote by Nadya Gorlova (University of Florida, Gainesville), whose recent work suggests that if moons like our own were common, we’d be seeing more dust than we do around other stars. “When a moon forms […]

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‘Doomsday Vault’ Prepares to Open

November 21, 2007

One of the things I like about Norway is that the government there requires at least one percent of public building budgets be devoted to artwork. Thus the plan for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is designed as a hedge against planetary catastrophe. At the Spitsbergen site near the town of Longyearbyen, highly polished […]

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Cosmic Ray Origins Quickly Back in Play

November 20, 2007

Interesting to see how quickly the story on high-energy galactic cosmic rays has shifted in the past week. Recent work at the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina pointed strongly to the centers of active galaxies, where supermassive black holes are found, as the likely source. These Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) stood out in analysis of […]

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