August 2011

Colonizing the Galaxy Using World Ships

August 31, 2011

The British Interplanetary Society’s Kelvin Long is no stranger to these pages, perhaps best known as the founder and first leader of Project Icarus, but an indefatigable writer on interstellar topics as well. Kelvin’s first book, Deep Space Propulsion: A Roadmap to Interstellar Flight, is scheduled for publication by Springer later this year. Fellow writer […]

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Entering the Age of Sail

August 30, 2011

I see that the new agenda for the 100 Year Starship Study symposium has now been posted. The meeting will be held in Orlando in about a month, set up along a number of parallel tracks from interstellar destinations to propulsion options and habitats, a wide-ranging set of sessions that will allow many in the […]

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Cassini’s Latest from Hyperion

August 29, 2011

We can thank the British astronomer John Herschel (1792-1871) for giving the moons of Saturn their classical theme, resulting in the familiar names Mimas, Dione, Enceladus, Tethys, Titan, Rhea, and Iapetus for the seven moons known to him when he wrote his Results of Astronomical Observations Made at the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope […]

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In the Sky with Diamonds

August 26, 2011

The idea of a planet around a pulsar is so bizarre that we often forget that three planets around the pulsar PSR B1257+12 were the first exoplanets ever detected. This pulsar is the remnant of a once massive star in the constellation Virgo that became a supernova, and the planets there — detected by Alex […]

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WISE: Coolest Brown Dwarfs Yet

August 25, 2011

The WISE mission has again come through, this time in the form of a discovery we’ve been more or less anticipating but now see confirmed. The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer works at infrared wavelengths ideal for spotting things we just can’t find with ground-based telescopes. WISE has now turned up six Y dwarfs, stars so […]

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Changing Face of an Icy Dwarf

August 24, 2011

2007 OR10 is an innocuous enough designation (discoverer Mike Brown calls it ‘an official license plate number’ based on date of discovery), but ‘Snow White’ isn’t. The dwarf planet that acquired the latter monniker from Caltech astronomer and KBO-hunter Brown seemed to deserve its name because at the time, Brown thought it was an icy […]

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HARPS: Hunting for Nearby Earth-like Planets

August 23, 2011

Ever more refined radial velocity searches for exoplanets are reaching into the domain of lower and lower mass targets. It’s natural enough that we’re most interested in planets of Earth mass and even smaller, but as a new paper on the work of the European Southern Observatory’s HARPS instrument reminds us, one of the great […]

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Catching Up with New Horizons

August 22, 2011

New Horizons continues on its inexorable way to Pluto/Charon, now some 21 AU out, which places it between the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. The latest report from principal investigator Alan Stern tells us that the 2011 checkout of the spacecraft was completed on July 1, a two-month process that included a test of the […]

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The Times and the Starship

August 19, 2011

Why think seriously about mounting an effort to reach the stars? In yesterday’s New York Times, Dennis Overbye runs through some of the basic drivers: The discovery of a habitable planet around a nearby star would create intense interest in sending a probe or, depending on how technology develops, mounting an expedition The demands of […]

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On Habitable Worlds and Their Moons

August 18, 2011

One of the problems with building a backlog of stories is that items occasionally get pushed farther back in the rotation than I had intended. Such is the case with an article in Astrobiology Magazine that talks about how much of a factor a large moon may be in making a planet habitable (thanks to […]

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