April 2011

Aftermath of an Asteroid Collision

April 29, 2011

Back in the days when the Solar System seemed a simpler place, asteroids were thought to be chunks of rocks whose features could be explained by impacts with other such objects. Comets were altogether different, laden with icy material that erupted when heated by the Sun. It was a straightforward picture, at a time when […]

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Tiny Spacecraft Point to Future Sails

April 28, 2011

Spacecraft no more than an inch square will fly aboard the next (and last) Shuttle flight to the International Space Station. The work of Mason Peck (Cornell University), the micro-satellites weigh in at less than one ten-millionth of the mass of the original Sputnik, yet can accomodate all the systems we associate with a spacecraft […]

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Trouble at Hat Creek

April 27, 2011

What is ‘space situational awareness,’ and what does it have to do with SETI? The answer begins with the collision of a Russian Cosmos 2251 satellite with one of the 66 communications satellites that comprise the Iridium satellite constellation, a worldwide voice and data system. The collision, which occurred on February 10, 2009 produced hundreds […]

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Icarus: Fusion and Secondary Technologies

April 26, 2011

Discovery News now offers fully ten articles on Project Icarus and its background, written by the Icarus team and assembled on the site by Ian O’Neill. I was startled to realize how the list had grown, but it reminds me to point periodically to this collection, because Icarus — the attempt to re-design the Project […]

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Saturn Aurora Offers Clues to Enceladus

April 25, 2011

Last week we looked at the possibility of using a planet’s aurora as an exoplanet detection tool, speculating that the LOFAR radio telescope in Europe might be able to detect such an emission, and I reminisced about listening for emissions from Jupiter on an old shortwave receiver. Jonathan Nichols’ work at the University of Leicester […]

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Exoplanet Aurora as Detection Tool

April 22, 2011

Although we’re finding more and more exoplanets, we can always use another technique besides radial velocity, transit searches, direct imaging and microlensing. And now Jonathan Nichols (University of Leicester) has proposed one at the Royal Astronomical Society’s meeting in Llandudno, Wales, which concluded its proceedings yesterday. Nichols has the notion of looking for the radio […]

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Probing Pluto’s Changeable Atmosphere

April 21, 2011

The study of carbon monoxide found in the atmosphere of Pluto — a strong signal rendered in data from the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii — gives us insight into the significant changes happening to the dwarf planet on its 248-year orbital path around the Sun. Pluto is one of a kind, offering us […]

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SETI: The Michaud/Cooper Dialogue

April 20, 2011

Space writer Keith Cooper, the editor of the UK’s Astronomy Now, is currently attending the Royal Astronomical Society’s meeting in Llandudno, Wales — in fact, the photo of him just below was taken the other day in Llandudno. But the frantic round of presentations hasn’t slowed Keith down. When last spotted in these pages, he […]

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Beyond the Red Edge

April 19, 2011

If you study ‘earthshine,’ the light of our planet reflected off the unlit part of the Moon, you can discover much about how life leaves an imprint upon a spectrum. It’s a useful exercise because one of these days we’ll have the tools in place to be examining the spectrum of a terrestrial world around […]

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WASP-12b: A Magnetic Bow Shock

April 18, 2011

A number of interesting things are coming out of the Royal Astronomical Society’s now convening meeting in Llandudno, Wales, many of them still embargoed, though we’ll be able to discuss them later in the week. But among the papers now open for discussion, I was drawn to work by Aline Vidotto and colleagues at the […]

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