January 2009

Remembering Steve Ostro

January 17, 2009

By Larry Klaes It was while I was working on our recent story on Near Earth Objects that Larry Klaes’ obituary for Steve Ostro arrived, a serendipitous event given Ostro’s landmark work in identifying planetoids and especially those that come perilously close to us. Ostro’s death last December came at a time of increasing public […]

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Interstellar Missions from the Living Room

January 16, 2009

Seth Shostak and I independently hit upon the same topic yesterday, Seth in his regular venue on Space.com and I with a Centauri Dreams post that asked how advances in observational technology might replace actual interstellar travel. Seth’s take is somewhat different from mine, arguing as he does that while we’ll spread through the Solar […]

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The ‘Why’ of Interstellar Flight

January 15, 2009

From the standpoint of pure research, one of the arguments for not going to nearby stars is that by the time we develop the needed technologies, we’ll have no need to make the journey. After all, we’ll soon be able to learn vast amounts about nearby worlds from space-based telescopes, not to mention planned Earth-side […]

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Mapping the Solar System’s Edge

January 14, 2009

Riding the solar wind with some kind of magnetic sail is one path into the outer Solar System, but before we can develop an operational technology around the idea, we have to learn much more about how the solar wind works. This stream of charged particles flows outward from the Sun at great speed — […]

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The Numbers on NEOs

January 13, 2009

The Spaceguard program, originally mandated by Congress in the 1990s, is in the business of detecting, tracking and cataloging near-Earth objects (NEOs). Spaceguard’s goal has always been as ambitious as it is crucial: To locate ninety percent or more of the objects that approach the Earth and are more than one kilometer in diameter. So […]

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Pondering the Casimir Effect

January 12, 2009

Place two parallel plates close to each other in vacuum and a strange thing happens, as Dutch physicist Hendrik Casimir learned. The Casimir effect that he described draws the plates together, an effect that was successfully measured first in 1958 and, with greater precision, by Steve Lamoreaux in 1996. The effect becomes important at distances […]

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A Louder than Expected Universe

January 9, 2009

Finding something unexpected adds immeasurably to the pleasure of doing science. Yesterday we looked at an anomalous transient in Boötes, one that has already spawned a number of theories to explain it. Today let’s look at some of the radio noise that pervades the cosmos, and an intriguing experiment that discovered more of it than […]

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Unusual Transient in Boötes

January 8, 2009

We continue to follow the American Astronomical Society’s meeting in Long Beach with fascination. This has, indeed, become AAS week in these pages. But amidst the news of brown dwarf discoveries, a more massive Milky Way than previously thought, and asteroids around white dwarf stars, the story of a genuine mystery stands out. Such a […]

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A Walk in the Galaxy

January 7, 2009

On my walk this morning, I was musing about the ongoing AAS meeting in Long Beach when I found myself having one of those epiphanies that seem to open a window into the heart of things. The day was unusually warm but gusts of wind tossed the trees and low clouds laced with rain scudded […]

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A New ‘Hot Neptune’

January 6, 2009

Our second transiting Neptune-mass planet has been discovered via the HAT Network of small, automated telescopes maintained by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. HAT-P-11b is described by Greg Laughlin at systemic (thanks to many who sent this link): HAT-P-11b is quite similar in mass and radius to Gliese 436b, and it’s actually somewhat larger than […]

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