June 2011

Neptune: New Discovery from Old Data

June 30, 2011

If you’re trying to figure out how fast a gas giant rotates, you have your work cut out for you. Jupiter seems to present the easiest case because of the famed Red Spot, first observed by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Cassini. But gas giants are thought to have a relatively small solid core, one that […]

Read the full article →

Exploring Stellar Winds

June 29, 2011

We’ve often speculated about the potential uses of the solar wind in pushing a ‘magsail’ to high velocities for missions beyond the Solar System. This isn’t solar sailing of the conventional type, in which the transfer of momentum from solar photons is the operating force. Instead of photons, a magsail would rely on the solar […]

Read the full article →

A Future We Didn’t Expect

June 28, 2011

It’s always good to dream big, but sometimes dreams take you in unexpected directions. Growing up with science fiction, I reveled in tales of manned exploration of the Solar System and nearby stars, many of which I assumed would eventually become reality. But I never dreamed about personal computers. You can go through the corpus […]

Read the full article →

Genesis: Extraordinary Analysis of the Solar Wind

June 27, 2011

The return of the Genesis mission in 2004 was a spectacular event, its parachute failing to deploy upon re-entry, leading to a crash in the Utah desert that seemed to have destroyed the mission’s solar wind collectors. But Genesis was a tough bird and we’re getting good science from its remains. The latest news comes […]

Read the full article →

Musings on Impartiality

June 24, 2011

Marc Millis, Tau Zero’s founding architect, drawing on his experience with NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics project and the years of research since, offers us some ideas about impartiality and how scientists can hope to attain it. It’s human nature to want our particular theories to succeed, but when they collide with reality, the lessons learned […]

Read the full article →

More Evidence for Enceladus Ocean

June 23, 2011

The latest work involving Cassini’s Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) gives us fresh information about Saturn’s intriguing moon Enceladus and the likelihood of an internal ocean there. You’ll recall that plumes of water vapor and grains of ice have been found spewing from the ‘tiger stripe’ fractures at the moon’s southern pole, feeding material to Saturn’s […]

Read the full article →

IceHunters.org: Probing for KBOs

June 22, 2011

New Horizons’ encounter with Pluto/Charon in 2015 is eagerly anticipated, but let’s not forget that the spacecraft will be operational afterwards as it moves deeper into the Kuiper Belt. Fuel will be tight, but there should be enough available for one and possibly a second encounter with a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO), assuming we can […]

Read the full article →

A Trio of Black Hole Studies

June 21, 2011

Big explosions make news, as proven by ubiquitous reports in the popular media about a distant star that wandered too close to the black hole at the center of its galaxy. The beam of energy that resulted from its destruction was composed of high-energy X-rays and gamma rays, and was unusual not only for its […]

Read the full article →

Analyzing a ‘Hyperactive’ Comet

June 20, 2011

We’ve certainly gotten our money’s worth out of the spacecraft once called ‘Deep Impact.’ A mission designed for close study of a comet (Tempel 1) winds up making extrasolar planet investigations in an extended mission called EPOCh (Extrasolar Planet Observations and Characterization), sends back imagery of the Earth and its moon that deepens our knowledge […]

Read the full article →

A Look Inside the 100 Year Starship Idea

June 16, 2011

Technology fails at the damnedest times, which is particularly ironic when discussing something as futuristic as a starship. But then, a starship launched in a hundred or more years won’t be worrying about small cassette recorders like my little Olympus, which chewed up the tape on which I was recording the June 16 teleconference held […]

Read the full article →