February 2012

Remembering an Astronautical Pioneer

February 29, 2012

by Claudio Maccone Physicist Les Shepherd, whose funeral is today, left friends throughout the astronautical community. Claudio Maccone, who worked with Shepherd on many occasions, was quick to offer his recollections of this remarkable man whose standards of excellence and unflagging support helped many young scientists as they embarked on careers in space science. A […]

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Les Shepherd, RIP

February 28, 2012

There are so many things to say about Les Shepherd, who died on Saturday, February 18, that I scarcely know where to begin. Born in 1918, Leslie Robert Shepherd was a key player in the creation of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), becoming its third president in 1957 — this was at the 8th Congress […]

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Project Icarus: Contemplating Starship Design

February 27, 2012

Andreas Tziolas, current leader of Project Icarus, gave a lengthy interview recently to The Atlantic’s Ross Andersen, who writes about starship design in Project Icarus: Laying the Plans for Interstellar Travel. Icarus encounters continuing controversy over its name, despite the fact that the Icarus team has gone to some lengths to explain the choice. Tziolas […]

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FTL Neutrinos: Closing In on a Solution

February 24, 2012

The news that the faster-than-light neutrino results announced to such widespread interest by the OPERA collaboration have now been explained has been spreading irresistibly around the Internet. But the brief piece in ScienceInsider that broke the news was stretching a point with a lead reading “Error Undoes Faster-Then-Light Neutrino Results.” For when you read the […]

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M-Dwarfs: A New and Wider Habitable Zone

February 23, 2012

I want to work a new paper on red dwarf habitability in here because it fits in so well with yesterday’s discussion of the super-Earth GJ1214b. The latter orbits an M-dwarf in Ophiuchus that yields a hefty 1.4 percent transit depth, meaning scientists have a strong lightcurve to work with as they examine this potential […]

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A Waterworld Around GJ1214

February 22, 2012

I love the way Zachory Berta (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) describes his studies of the transiting super-Earth GJ1214b. Referring to his team’s analysis of the planet’s atmosphere, Berta says “We’re using Hubble to measure the infrared color of sunset on this world.” And indeed they have done just this, discovering a spectrum that is featureless […]

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Black Hole Flags Galactic Collision

February 21, 2012

HLX-1 (Hyper-Luminous X-ray source 1) is thought to be a black hole, one that’s a welcome discovery for astronomers trying to puzzle out the mysteries of black hole formation. Located roughly 290 million light years from Earth and situated toward the edge of a galaxy called ESO 243-49, this black hole looks to be some […]

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Jupiter’s Protective Role Questioned

February 20, 2012

How likely are we to find other planets in the universe that are as habitable as Earth? One key to the puzzle has long been thought to be the presence of Jupiter in our own Solar System. In fact, the presence of the giant planet has become a player in the so-called ‘rare Earth’ argument […]

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Alpha Centauri B: A Close Look at the Habitable Zone

February 17, 2012

The dreams of Alpha Centauri I used to have as a boy all focused on visual effects. After all, the distance between Centauri A and B ranges from 11.4 to 36.0 AU. What would it be like to have a second star in our Solar System, one that occasionally closed to a little more than […]

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‘Light Echo’ Reveals Eta Carinae Puzzle

February 16, 2012

Luminous Blue Variables are large, bright stars that give rise to periodic eruptions, like the so-called “Great Eruption” of Eta Carinae that was first noted in 1837 and continued to be observed for an additional 21 years. Things must have been lively around the companion star thought to orbit in the nebula around Eta Carinae, […]

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