April 2013

Hunting for Brown Dwarf Planets

April 30, 2013

Brown dwarfs fascinate me because they’re the newest addition to the celestial menagerie, exotic objects about which we know all too little. The evidence suggests that brown dwarfs can form planets, but so far we’ve found only a few. Two gravitational microlensing detections on low mass stars have been reported, one of which is a […]

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Starship Congress Registration Opens

April 29, 2013

Our friends at Icarus Interstellar continue working on this summer’s conference. Just in from my son Miles is news about the opening of registration for the Dallas event. Registration for the 2013 Starship Congress, hosted by Icarus Interstellar, is now open. The registration fee is $100; however, the first 25 paid registrations receive a $25 […]

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Robotic Replicators

April 26, 2013

Centauri Dreams regular Keith Cooper gives us a look at self-replication and the consequences of autonomous probes for intelligent cultures spreading into the universe. Is the Fermi paradox explained by the lack of such civilizations in the galaxy, or is there a far more subtle reason? Keith has been thinking about these matters for some […]

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The Alpha Centauri Angle

April 25, 2013

Apropos of yesterday’s article on the discovery of Proxima Centauri, it’s worth noting that Murray Leinster’s story “Proxima Centauri,” which ran in Astounding Stories in March of 1935, was published just seven years after H. A. Alden’s parallax findings demonstrated beyond all doubt that Proxima was the closest star to the Sun, vindicating both Robert […]

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Finding Proxima Centauri

April 24, 2013

It’s fascinating to realize how recent our knowledge of the nearest stars has emerged. A little less than a century has gone by since Proxima Centauri was discovered by one Robert Thorburn Ayton Innes (1861-1933), a Scot who had moved to Australia and went on to work at the Union Observatory in Johannesburg. Innes used […]

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A Gravitationally Lensed Supernova?

April 23, 2013

I keep a close eye on gravitational lensing, not only because of the inherent fascination of the subject but also because the prospect of using the Sun’s own lensing to study distant astrophysical phenomena could lead to near-term missions to 550 AU and beyond. And because I’m also intrigued by ‘standard candles,’ those markers of […]

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Thoughts on Kepler 62 and Habitability

April 22, 2013

Because we only have direct images of a tiny number of planets orbiting other stars, we’re used to extrapolating as much as we can from our data and plugging in possible scenarios. But as the recent announcement of two ‘super-Earths’ around Kepler 62 demonstrates, we’re coming up hard against the limits of our knowledge. The […]

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Starship Century Symposium May 21-22

April 19, 2013

The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination is launching in May with what it describes as a ‘series of perspectives’ on what we can expect in the coming century. Its inaugural symposium begins on May 14 at the University of California at San Diego with discussions on design, artificial intelligence, synthetic life and science […]

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Water Worlds in the Habitable Zone

April 18, 2013

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” Thus Cassius speaking to Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, trying to convince him that what happens to us comes not from some malign fate but from our own actions. I’m sure he’s right, too, but I admit there are […]

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Finding ET in the Data

April 17, 2013

As we saw yesterday, the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) has been the source of data for a number of searches for unusual infrared signatures. The idea is to look for the artifacts of advanced extraterrestrial civilizations, under the assumption that a sufficiently advanced culture will be capable of engineering projects that could be detected from […]

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