November 2009

WISE: Brown Dwarf Hunter Extraordinaire

November 13, 2009

Friday is a travel day for me, so be aware that comment moderation will be slow and sporadic. I just have time to get in word about the upcoming launch of the WISE mission, slated for December 7. NASA is planning a media briefing next Tuesday (November 17) to discuss the mission, which is designed […]

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The Lithium Clue to Exoplanets

November 12, 2009

The exoplanet watch among our readers is clearly in full operation, to judge from the number of backchannel messages I received about the latest work from HARPS (High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher). The remarkable ESO spectrograph attached to the La Silla 3.6-meter telescope now offers evidence that Sun-like stars that host planets will show […]

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LightSail: A Near-Term Space Sail

November 11, 2009

From the fusion-powered Project Icarus, designed to handle the interstellar long-haul, to the first tentative solar sail experiments in near-Earth space seems like quite a jump. But we needed to be reminded of the need for research on both ends of the spectrum, the things that are doable today and the concepts we want to […]

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Project Icarus Symposium: Part Two

November 10, 2009

by Pat Galea Project Icarus will update the Project Daedalus starship designed by the British Interplanetary Society in the 1970s. As we saw yesterday, developments in technology allow new options in a number of areas, but also raise questions about the mission’s scope and choice of targets. Pat Galea now concludes his discussion of the […]

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Report on the Project Icarus Symposium

November 9, 2009

by Pat Galea The Tau Zero Foundation has been working with the British Interplanetary Society on Project Icarus, a starship study that updates the famous Project Daedalus work from the 1970s. Pat Galea, a software engineer with a lively interest in the physics of interstellar flight, attended the recent symposium that launched the project, and […]

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MiniSpaceWorld Design Contest Nears Finish

November 7, 2009

My friend Tibor Pacher reports that the MiniSpaceWorld Design Contest is getting quite interesting, with six submissions of high quality, all going in different directions. Tibor’s goal is to build a scale model world that, like the famous Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, shows off space technology in tiny, exquisite detail. We’re used to seeing this […]

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The Gravitational Lens and Communications

November 6, 2009

If we can get the right kind of equipment to the Sun’s gravitational focus, remarkable astronomical observations should follow. We’ve looked at the possibilities of using this tremendous natural lens to get close-up images of nearby exoplanets and other targets, but in a paper delivered at the International Astronautical Congress in Daejeon, South Korea in […]

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Cometary Clues to Solar System Origins

November 5, 2009

The Earth receives thousands of tons of interplanetary dust every year as it makes its way around the Sun. Can we trace any of this material to a particular source? Scientists from the Carnegie Institution think the answer is yes, at least in the case of comet Grigg-Skjellerup. The Carnegie team worked with interplanetary dust […]

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Dark Matter: Results and Further Planning

November 4, 2009

If you’re going to snare dark matter, you’d better have incredibly accurate detectors. So the thinking goes at Case Western Reserve, where researchers are planning the most sensitive experiment yet to go after WIMPs (weakly interacting massive particles). WIMPs are almost impossible to detect because they don’t give off radiation and pass through normal matter […]

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Is There a Flaw in General Relativity?

November 3, 2009

By Larry Klaes We have much to do as we scramble to explain the universe’s continuing acceleration. Dark energy seems to be demanded by the data, but there are holdouts who argue for a reinterpretation of General Relativity. Tau Zero journalist Larry Klaes looks at one proponent of a revised GR who sees exceptions to […]

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