December 2009

Exoplanetary Thoughts for 2010

December 31, 2009

Several stories stick in my mind as we approach the New Year, presented here in no particular order, but merely as material for musing. The detection (by the MEarth Project) of a transiting ‘super-Earth’ this past month opens up interesting areas for speculation. Gliese 1214b is roughly 6.5 times as massive as Earth, orbiting an […]

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Voyagers Look at the Edge of the Solar System

December 30, 2009

We always cite the Mars rovers as examples of missions that perform far beyond their expected lifetimes, but the two Voyager spacecraft are reminding us once again that we have instrumentation at the edge of the Solar System that is still functioning after all these years. Both Voyagers are now in the heliosheath, the outermost […]

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Decelerating at Alpha Centauri

December 29, 2009

As we await results from ongoing observations of the Alpha Centauri stars, let’s summarize for a moment what we currently know. While the subject is still up for debate, a number of studies have suggested that terrestrial planets can form around either Centauri A or B, with planetary systems extending as far out as 2.5 […]

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The Problem with Warp Drive

December 28, 2009

Paul Titze, who somehow finds time to write the excellent Captain InterStellar blog when not preoccupied with his maritime duties in Sydney, passed along a 2009 paper on warp drives yesterday that I want to be sure to consider before the year is over. Warp drives as in Miguel Alcubierre’s notion of a method of […]

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Avatar: Plausibility and Implications

December 24, 2009

by Larry Klaes We continue Larry Klaes’ look at the James Cameron film Avatar, noting the technology with interest, but also examining the people involved and the always relevant question of how we deal with other cultures. How plausible are the creatures depicted in the film, and what sort of artistic choices forced Cameron’s hand? […]

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Avatar: Vision or Mere Entertainment?

December 23, 2009

by Larry Klaes Long-time Centauri Dreams readers will know that Larry Klaes is a frequent critic of the portrayal of science in movies, and in particular of the ways Hollywood looks at aliens and our interactions with them. Larry has again been to the cinema, this time to see the new James Cameron release Avatar. […]

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Titan’s Lakes, An Exoplanet’s Seas

December 22, 2009

With much of the US east coast to the north of me digging out from the recent storm, I can only think how fortunate I am not to be trying to travel right now. The snow-clogged airports and snarled streets that are all over the news do have their effect on my thinking, though, which […]

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Detecting Habitable Exomoons

December 21, 2009

What a welcome event the release of James Cameron’s new film Avatar must be for scientists working on the question of exomoons — satellites orbiting extrasolar planets. Imagine being a Lisa Kaltenegger (CfA) or David Kipping (University College London), hard at work exploring exomoon detection and possible habitability when a blockbuster film is released that […]

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FOCAL: A Call for Papers

December 18, 2009

The Tau Zero Foundation is announcing a call for papers related to the FOCAL mission. The venue: The 61st International Astronautical Congress in Prague, which convenes on the 27th of September, 2010 and runs to October 1. Specifically, we are looking for papers for session D4.2, “Interstellar Precursor Missions,” whose focus is “…missions that significantly […]

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Smallest KBO Ever Found

December 17, 2009

The Hubble Space Telescope is capable of extraordinary things, but a 35th magnitude object is beyond its capabilities. In fact, 35th magnitude is 100 times dimmer than what the instrument can see directly. But an ingenious investigation using Hubble’s Fine Guidance Sensors (FGS) has turned up the smallest Kuiper Belt Object yet found. Not surprisingly, […]

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