March 2011

The Flight of Icarus: Abridged

March 18, 2011

by Andreas Tziolas After a 15 minute main thruster burn early this morning (UTC), the MESSENGER spacecraft is now in orbit around Mercury. Congratulations to the entire MESSENGER team. As we look forward to much more from Mercury, I want to turn today’s session over to Andreas Tziolas, for some thoughts on the mind-bending process […]

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White Dwarfs and Habitable Planets

March 17, 2011

Before I get into today’s story, which is an interesting study on planets around white dwarfs that Andrew Tribick passed along, I want to say a few words about Japan. Centauri Dreams has many, many readers in that country, and the terrible images and stories coming out of there have haunted me these past few […]

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MESSENGER’s Day in the Sun

March 16, 2011

We rarely talk about the inner planets here, and even Mars gets short shrift. That’s because I decided at the outset that because there were so many excellent sites covering planetary exploration — and especially Mars — my only focus within our Solar System would be on the outer planets and, of course, what lies […]

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A Dark Energy Option Challenged

March 15, 2011

Having a constant named after you ensures a hallowed place in astronomical history, and we can assume that Edwin Hubble would have been delighted with our continuing studies of the constant that bears his name. It was Hubble who showed that the velocity of distant galaxies as measured by their Doppler shift is proportional to […]

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Fukushima: Reactors and the Public

March 14, 2011

All weekend long, as the dreadful news and heart-wrenching images from Japan kept coming in, I wondered how press coverage of the nuclear reactor situation would be handled. The temptation seemed irresistible to play the story for drama and maximum fear, citing catastrophic meltdowns, invoking Chernobyl and even Hiroshima, along with dire predictions about the […]

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Antimatter: The Conundrum of Storage

March 11, 2011

Are we ever going to use antimatter to drive a starship? The question is tantalizing because while chemical reactions liberate about one part in a billion of the energy trapped inside matter — and even nuclear reactions spring only about one percent of that energy free — antimatter promises to release what Frank Close calls […]

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The Rhetoric of Interstellar Flight

March 10, 2011

Isn’t it fascinating how the Voyager spacecraft keep sparking the public imagination? When Voyager 2 flew past Neptune in 1989, the encounter was almost elegaic. It was as if we were saying goodbye to the doughty mission that had done so much to acquaint us with the outer Solar System, and although there was talk […]

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Enceladus: Heat Output a Surprise

March 9, 2011

What do we make of the ‘tiger stripes’? The intriguing terrain in the south polar region of Saturn’s moon Enceladus is geologically active and one of the most fascinating finds of the Cassini mission. The ‘stripes’ are actually four trenches, more or less in parallel, that stretch 130 kilometers, each about 2 kilometers wide. What […]

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On Meteorites and Budgets

March 8, 2011

Two kinds of astrobiology stories are in the wind this morning. One of them has to do with the weekend eruption of stories concerning evidence of fossilized life inside a meteorite. The other deals with scientific investigation off-planet, and although sparsely covered, it’s the one with the greater significance for finding life elsewhere. But first, […]

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NIAC: Bob Cassanova’s Mug

March 7, 2011

Last week turned into a major disruption for Centauri Dreams. Major server problems that have involved new hardware and all manner of delays struck late on the night of Sunday February 27 and kept the site offline until this past weekend. Sorry for this, and thanks to those of you who kept in touch via […]

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