February 2010

Space: ‘Let’s Just Do It’

February 15, 2010

When Peter Diamandis talks about the emergence of a ‘let’s just do it’ mentality about spaceflight, anyone interested in getting our species off-planet will listen up. Diamandis, after all, as chief executive of the X Prize Foundation, has been a major force in making commercial space ventures newsworthy. Who can forget the first flight of […]

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Directed Panspermia: Seeding the Galaxy

February 12, 2010

Panspermia, the idea that life might travel through space to seed other planets and even other star systems, is a fascinating topic for conjecture, and our understanding of the survival of various forms of life in extreme environments only adds to its appeal. But just as SETI has an active counterpart that seeks to send […]

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Dark Energy: Calibrating Standard Candles

February 11, 2010

To measure the brightness of a star, astronomers compare it to standard reference stars. You would think measurements of the latter would be highly refined by now, but as this New Scientist story points out, the bright star Vega’s most accurate measurements date back to the 1970s. That puts the focus on a new space […]

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Mapping the Interstellar Medium

February 10, 2010

We’ve long known that the spaces between the stars are not empty, but are pervaded by a highly dilute mix of gas and dust. Now we’re getting maps that show the presence of large cavities in this interstellar medium, created by supernova events as well as outflowing solar winds from clusters of hot, young stars. […]

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New Evidence for Water on Enceladus

February 9, 2010

New measurements from Cassini, made on a flyby through the plume of Enceladus on March 12, 2008, bolster the case for liquid water in the Saturnian moon. Cassini found negatively charged water ions in the plume, and its plasma spectrometer also traced other kinds of negatively charged ions including hydrocarbons. That adds Enceladus to a […]

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Notes & Queries 2/8/10

February 8, 2010

Prospects for Interstellar Travel Be aware of Paul Titze’s continuing exegesis of John Mauldin’s book Prospects for Interstellar Travel (Univelt, 1992). I used Mauldin again and again as I developed my Centauri Dreams book, finding the dense and lengthy volume covered every conceivable aspect of interstellar flight as understood by current physics. But the book […]

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FOCAL: Renewed Call for Papers

February 6, 2010

Every few weekends as we move toward the March 5 deadline for submission of abstracts to the next International Astronautical Congress, I’ll re-run this call for papers that I originally published in December. The Tau Zero Foundation hopes to energize discussion of FOCAL in the astronautical community and create a growing set of papers analyzing […]

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Unusually Rapid Changes on Pluto

February 5, 2010

Here’s something to consider re the recent Pluto news: The Hubble maps of the tiny world that were released yesterday show a resolution of roughly 300 miles per pixel. When New Horizons flies by Pluto/Charon in 2015, it will send images with a resolution of 300 feet per pixel. And we’ve been reminded once again […]

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A Boost for Exoplanet Atmosphere Studies

February 4, 2010

What JPL’s Mark Swain calls ‘an absolutely brilliant way to characterize super-Earths’ has emerged from work performed with a small NASA infrared telescope, one that has allowed scientists to identify an organic molecule in the atmosphere of a distant gas giant. HD 189733b is an old friend by now, the subject of intensive studies with […]

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Collision in the Asteroid Belt?

February 3, 2010

Collisions between asteroids should be highly energetic affairs, with an average impact speed of close to 5 kilometers per second. We may be looking at the debris of a head-on collision between two asteroids in imagery provided by the Hubble Space Telescope. The object in question, originally thought to have been a comet, is P/2010 […]

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