September 2009

CoRoT-7b: A Small, Rocky World Examined

September 16, 2009

I love to run into genuine enthusiasm when someone is doing cutting-edge science, and Didier Queloz (Observatoire de Geneve) has not let me down. Here the astronomer is discussing CoRoT-7b, which new studies have determined is a rocky world: “This is science at its thrilling and amazing best. We did everything we could to learn […]

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Lightcraft Experiments Continue

September 15, 2009

The last time we developed a new way of reaching orbit was back in the 1950s. How useful, then, to come up with one that allows huge weight reduction because it leaves propellant and energy source on the ground. Keeping the fuel at home or harvesting it along the way are key ways to conceptualize […]

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Lightcraft: A Laser Push to Orbit

September 14, 2009

Not the least of the objections against using laser propulsion to boost a lightsail to the stars is the engineering required to build the system. But theorists like Robert Forward, who originated the laser lightsail idea, never thought we would simply create such a system from scratch. We might ask, then, in the area of […]

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Connecting to the Cosmos

September 11, 2009

Learning how we connect with the universe is one of the most fruitful investigations of modern science. No matter how we approach the matter, we’re confronted with interesting possibilities. We study how gas giant planets may affect life on inner, terrestrial worlds by diverting asteroids from potential impacts. We look at issues like panspermia, wondering […]

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Space Art: Reviving the Imagination

September 10, 2009

The other day I made a crack about a particular piece of artwork not being up to snuff, said item being an illustration accompanying a news release about a recent astronomical find. Maybe I was just out of sorts that day. In any case, what’s significant to me about much of the artwork floating around […]

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Obousy’s ‘Interstellar Journey’ Site Debuts

September 9, 2009

Point a Voyager-speed spacecraft at Alpha Centauri and the travel time would be on the order of 73,000 years. Those of us obsessed with the idea of interstellar journeys are forced to hope for profound breakthroughs in physics and engineering. The word ‘breakthrough’ is, if anything, an understatement. An Alcubierre-style ‘warp drive’ would, so far […]

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A White Dwarf with Supernova Possibilities

September 8, 2009

I try to run interesting astronomical art wherever I can find it, but the image that accompanies this ESA news release on the discovery of an interesting white dwarf just doesn’t cut it. So use your imagination as I describe the results of a study using data from ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray telescope, which have given […]

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Habitable Planets Conference Update

September 7, 2009

The exoplanet hunt has entered a significant new phase, one focused on transiting planets and the useful things we can learn about their physical properties and atmospheres through such events. Driven by CoRoT and Kepler, we’re now in position to use those transits to spot smaller worlds than ever, down to terrestrial size, and naturally […]

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An Advanced Propulsion Overview

September 4, 2009

Both Tau Zero Foundation founder Marc Millis and JPL’s recently retired Robert Frisbee appear in an article in the Smithsonian’s Air & Space, where voyages to distant places indeed are discussed. Nothing is further from Earth, the article notes, than Voyager 1, which travels at a speed (almost 17 kilometers per second) that would get […]

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Unusual Find 12.8 Billion Light Years Out

September 3, 2009

Here’s a surprise — a galaxy as large as the Milky Way that houses a supermassive black hole with the equivalent of a billion suns worth of matter. The surprise isn’t the object itself but its distance, some 12.8 billion light years (redshift 6.43). [See Adam Crowl’s comment below: This is not actually a ‘distance’ […]

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