April 2008

Weekend Reading from Triton to Kentucky

April 19, 2008

The Kentucky space program may get back to the Moon before NASA or the Chinese. If that sounds cryptic, do visit the latest Carnival of Space, held on Wayne Hall’s KySat Online site, which supports this innovative and student-led program to get the educational system into the business of designing, building, and operating small satellites. […]

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Star Formation in the Hinterlands

April 18, 2008

Centauri Dreams always thinks it’s important to talk about images like the one below. Not the specific subject matter — this is the Southern Pinwheel galaxy M83, about which more in a moment — but about the beauty of the image. Casual browsers of astronomy photos often tell me they never realized how colorful space […]

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Bach’s Flare: Brightening the Galactic Core

April 17, 2008

Looking at the central black holes in galaxies other than our own has forced a question: What’s going at Milky Way galactic central? We know there is a black hole there, and a big one, weighing in at about four million solar masses. But the Milky Way’s black hole, called Sagittarius A* (pronounced ‘A-star’) seems […]

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Ringing the Stellar Bell

April 16, 2008

56 light years from Earth, the star Iota Horologii is a member of the ‘Hyades stream,’ a number of stars moving in a similar direction with respect to the rest of the galaxy. It’s also an exoplanet host star, known to have a planet twice the mass of Jupiter in a 320-day orbit. The two […]

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John Wheeler and the Umpires

April 15, 2008

Is observation critical to existence? Niels Bohr believed that it was the collapse of the wave function that gave particles like electrons their distinct reality. John Wheeler, who knew and worked with the great figures of quantum mechanics, summarized the gap between that point of view and Einstein’s by quoting three baseball umpires: Number 1: […]

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Calls Into the Cosmos

April 15, 2008

Larry Klaes tackles the METI question — do we intentionally broadcast to the stars? — in Athena Andreadis’ Astrogator’s Logs today, looking at the pros and cons of an issue that continues to bedevil the scientific community. Of METI advocate Alexander Zaitsev (Russian Academy of Science), for example, Klaes writes this: In a paper Zaitsev […]

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Massive Gamma Ray Burst Still Lingers

April 15, 2008

The death of a star fifty times more massive than our Sun may well result in a hypernova, far more powerful than a supernova and, if you’re in line with the concentrated beam of its energies, far more luminous. Such events are hypothesized to be associated with long-duration gamma ray bursts (GRBs). We’ve just had […]

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Sizing Up Impacts and Their Effects

April 14, 2008

Do we have a good idea how many impact events have affected life on Earth? New work on ocean sediments offers the chance to expand our knowledge, helping to flag the distinctive signature of an impact and even to tell us how large the incoming object was. We may find more historical impacts than have […]

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Weekend Readings and Rationales

April 12, 2008

The 49th Carnival of Space is up at Will Gater’s site, and this week I’ll point you in particular to Alan Boyle’s entry on black hole simulations. The mathematics of black hole collisions are not for the faint of heart, but the Rochester Institute of Technology’s supercomputer cluster seems up to the task, even if […]

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Life as Rarity in the Cosmos

April 11, 2008

Although I suspect that intelligent life is rare in the cosmos, I’m playing little more than a hunch. So it’s interesting to see that Andrew Watson (University of East Anglia) has analyzed the chances for intelligence elsewhere in the universe by looking at the challenges life faced as it evolved. Watson believes that it took […]

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