January 2009

Titan: A Rainy Season Ahead?

January 30, 2009

Rain seems to have been plentiful at Titan’s south pole. A new analysis of Cassini imagery compares the region in recent times with what it was about a year earlier, noting new features in areas many scientists believe to be lakes of liquid hydrocarbons. Adding to the conjecture is the fact that extensive cloud systems […]

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Beginnings of a Brown Dwarf Census

January 29, 2009

Just how common are brown dwarfs? The answer is still up for debate, for stars like these (with masses less than 0.05 that of the Sun) are so small that they do not burn hydrogen, and as they age, they become more and more difficult to detect. But we’d like to know more, especially in […]

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Most Accurate Exoplanet Image Yet

January 28, 2009

I absolutely love the image below, so I decided to run it at full size although it doesn’t quite fit the column width. You’re looking at the result of recent work from the California & Carnegie Planet Search team, which used data from the Spitzer Space Telescope to produce what is probably the most accurate […]

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A Crowded Inner System

January 27, 2009

A small asteroid hitting the Earth’s atmosphere is a spectacular phenomenon, but one likely to go unseen if the object has not been previously tracked. But that may be changing as we continue to install automated cameras across the planet. Take a look at this video of the object that exploded over Scandinavia on January […]

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A Science Fictional Take on Being There

January 26, 2009

If you’re not a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (still commonly known as the SFWA from the days before the ‘fantasy’ bit was added), you may not see the group’s regular bulletin. That would be understandable, given that although it can be found on newsstands, the SFWA Bulletin now costs […]

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A Workable Fusion Starship?

January 23, 2009

by Adam Crowl In the market for a mammoth starship? Recently released work by Friedwardt Winterberg, discussed here by Adam Crowl, points to fast interplanetary travel and implies possibilities in the interstellar realm that are innovative and ingenious. Adam notes in an e-mail that Winterberg’s drive has certain similarities to MagOrion, a system that in […]

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Dark Matter and Galactic Origins

January 22, 2009

Understanding how galaxies form is no easy matter, particularly when you factor in dark matter. Without a firm knowledge of what dark matter actually is, we’re limited to discussing its perceived effects, something that researchers at Hebrew University of Jerusalem have coupled with computer simulations that change how we view the early universe. The large […]

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Detecting Alien Vegetation

January 21, 2009

Could we find evidence of vegetation on distant exoplanets? The answer may be yes, according to recent work by Luc Arnold (Observatoire de Haute Provence) and team. If green vegetation on another planet is anything like what we have on Earth, then it will share a distinctive spectral signature called the Vegetation Red Edge, or […]

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Earth-mass Exoplanets and Their Uses

January 20, 2009

What would it take to energize the public about interstellar flight? The answer seems obvious: Discover an Earth-type planet around another star. As happened with Gliese 581 c, once thought to be potentially habitable, the media would quickly focus on the question of how to get there. Interviewed by the BBC on that topic, I […]

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The Earliest Stardust

January 19, 2009

A familiar scenario from the early universe is getting a tune-up. It’s long been believed that cosmic dust was first produced by supernovae, becoming the essential building block for the formation of planets. New work using the Spitzer Space Telescope suggests a second mechanism that complements the first. So-called ‘carbon stars,’ stars late in their […]

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