January 2008

From Mercury to Centauri B

January 21, 2008

Centauri Dreams‘ rarely spends time close to the Sun, preferring to focus on stars other than our own, and their planets. But the MESSENGER spacecraft’s close pass by Mercury, leading eventually to orbit, does have an interstellar connection in the person of project scientist Ralph McNutt, who is prominent not only in exploring the closest […]

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Enceladus: Making the Case for Life

January 19, 2008

Thoughts on Enceladus as a home to life have kept astrobiological debate lively, an unexpected but welcome development from the Cassini mission. The interest is understandable: Cassini has shown us plumes that seem to be the result of some kind of geothermal venting, with liquid water and geothermal energy sources all possible drivers for the […]

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More Eyes for the Asteroid Hunt

January 18, 2008

Centauri Dreams has always advocated a robust asteroid detection program to help us get an accurate census of objects that might endanger Earth. Thus I’m happy to report on promising events at the UK’s sole observatory dedicated to Earth-crossing asteroids. The Spaceguard Center in Wales has been offered a new telescope by the Institute of […]

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37th Carnival of Space

January 18, 2008

The 37th Carnival of Space is up at Darnell Clayton’s Colony Worlds site. This week I would recommend planetary probe enthusiasts have a look at Music of the Spheres, where the talk is not just about the MESSENGER probe’s visit to Mercury, but about software you can run to simulate various situations in orbital mechanics. […]

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Starlight on a Distant Sea

January 17, 2008

Planets around other stars are too faint to be imaged directly, and although claims have been made for such detections (2M1207b is a case in point), it’s safe to say that our current techniques need significant upgrading to achieve reliable images of such distant worlds. But studying terrestrial planets is a long-term objective and numerous […]

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SETI Report Bogus

January 16, 2008

Just off the phone with Seth Shostak, I can report that the KTVU story discussed below about a possible SETI reception is bogus. Apparently the reporter involved misinterpreted the conversation, as we had surmised. We may get a successful reception of an extraterrestrial civilization’s signal one of these days, but this wasn’t it.

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Life’s Ingredients in a Distant Galaxy

January 16, 2008

We spend so much time talking about the Arecibo radio telescope with regard to planetary radar that it’s nice to come back to its applications in deep space. Thus the news that astronomers using the instrument have found key ingredients of amino acids in a galaxy 250 million light years from Earth in the constellation […]

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Dubious SETI Report Claims Reception

January 16, 2008

This looks like a case of extremely poor science reporting, but because I’ve already received e-mail about it, I will point you to a report from KTVU, a San Francisco television station, claiming that a mystery signal has been received at Arecibo, with obvious SETI implications. Cosmic Variance has also picked up on this and […]

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Exoplanet Prediction Confirmed

January 15, 2008

I’m late getting to this one, because I wanted to get Mike Gruntman’s paper on interstellar instrumentation finished. But for exoplanet enthusiasts like myself, the best news to come out of the recent American Astronomical Society meeting may have been the announcement of a new planet around the star HD 74156. So let’s talk about […]

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Interstellar Instrumentation and Its Uses

January 14, 2008

It’s a long-term conundrum in interstellar studies: When do you launch a mission, knowing that faster methods may make your spacecraft obsolete? We might think about this problem again in light of Mike Gruntman’s paper on a precursor interstellar mission to the local interstellar medium (LISM). As we saw on Friday, Gruntman (USC) has examined […]

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