December 2012

A New Year Awaits

December 31, 2012

I’ve gotten so used to thinking ‘maybe this will be the year when the first Alpha Centauri planet is discovered’ that I almost said it again about 2013. Fortunately, we already have a (still unconfirmed) Centauri B b, and the latest I’ve heard is that it may take five years or so before we can […]

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Planet Discovery Through Disk Structure

December 28, 2012

As the number of confirmed planets and planet candidates has grown, we’ve gone through a variety of techniques for exoplanet hunting, as Michael Lemonick’s new book Mirror Earth: The Search for Our Planet’s Twin (Walker & Co., 2012) makes clear. I’m only a third of the way into the book but I bring it up […]

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Alpha Centauri in Perspective

December 27, 2012

In his new article on Alpha Centauri in Astronomy & Geophysics, Martin Beech (Campion College, University of Regina) noted that the Alpha Centauri stars seem to go through waves of scientific interest. Beech used Google’s Ngram Viewer to look for references to the system in both the scientific literature as well as general magazines and […]

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Best Wishes for a Stellar Holiday

December 24, 2012

Martin Beech has written a superb summary of Alpha Centauri studies for the Royal Astronomical Society’s journal Astronomy and Geophysics, covering recent work up to and including the discovery of planet candidate Centauri B b. A fine holiday gift! I had been hoping to write it up this morning, but Christmas events, not least of […]

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New Models of Galactic Expansion

December 21, 2012

Unexpectedly waking this morning despite Mayan prophecy, I suddenly remembered the storms that had kept me up for an hour during the night. There was little rain, but the winds were gusting and I could hear trees branches slapping against the siding and dogs baying inside nearby houses. When I got up to look out […]

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Tightly Spaced Habitable Zone Candidates

December 20, 2012

We saw yesterday how a newly refined radial velocity technique allowed researchers to identify five planet candidates around the nearby star Tau Ceti. The latter has long held fascination for the exoplanet minded because it’s a G-class star not all that different from the Sun, and one of the planets around it — if confirmed […]

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Tau Ceti’s Five Planet Candidates

December 19, 2012

I discovered while trying to get to my copy of Stephen Dole’s Habitable Planets for Man that my office was so choked with stacks of books mixing with Christmas gifts about to be wrapped that I couldn’t reach the necessary shelf. Thus space studies end inevitably in office cleaning, the only benefit of which is […]

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Solar System Origins: No Supernova?

December 18, 2012

How do we get from clouds of gas and dust in interstellar space to stars like the Sun? It takes the right triggering event, which can cause such a cloud to collapse under its own gravity, and we’ve generally assumed that the trigger was a supernova. Indeed, one way to check the theory is to […]

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An Early Nod to Beamed Propulsion

December 17, 2012

It’s always interesting how different strands of research can come together at unexpected moments. The last couple of posts on Centauri Dreams have involved new work on Titan, and early references in science fiction to Saturn’s big moon. The science fiction treatments show the appeal of a distant object with an atmosphere, with writers speculating […]

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Titan: A Vast, Subsurface Ocean?

December 14, 2012

Yesterday’s look at a major river on Titan took on a decidedly science fictional cast, but then Titan has always encouraged writers to speculate. Asimov’s “First Law” (1956) tackles a storm on Titan as a way of dealing with the Three Laws of Robotics. Arthur C. Clarke filled Titan with a large human colony in […]

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