September 2015

Off on a Comet

September 30, 2015

Imagine what you could do with a comet at your disposal. In Seveneves, Neal Stephenson’s new novel (William Morrow, 2015), a Musk-like character named Sean Probst decides to go after Comet Grigg-Skjellerup. A lunar catastrophe has doomed planet Earth and humanity is in a frantic rush to figure out how to save at least a […]

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On Habitability around Red Dwarf Stars

September 29, 2015

Learning that there is flowing water on Mars encourages the belief that human missions there will have useful resources, perhaps in the form of underground aquifers that can be drawn upon not just as a survival essential but also to produce interplanetary necessities like rocket fuel. What yesterday’s NASA announcement cannot tell us, of course, […]

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Pluto, Bonestell and Richard Powers

September 28, 2015

Like the Voyagers and Cassini before it, New Horizons is a gift that keeps on giving. As I looked at the latest Pluto images, I was drawn back to Chesley Bonestell’s depiction of Pluto, a jagged landscape under a dusting of frozen-out atmosphere. Bonestell’s images in The Conquest of Space (Viking, 1949) took the post-World […]

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Seeing Alien Power Beaming

September 25, 2015

We’ve long discussed intercepting not only beacons but stray radio traffic from other civilizations. The latter may be an all but impossible catch for our technology, but there is a third possibility: Perhaps we can intercept the ‘leakage’ from a beamed power infrastructure used to accelerate another civilization’s spacecraft. The idea has been recently quantified […]

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Another Search for Kardashev Type III

September 24, 2015

I have no idea whether we would be able to recognize a Kardashev Type III civilization if we saw one, but the search is necessary as we rule out some possibilities and examine others. As we saw yesterday, the Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies project at Penn State has examined data on 100,000 galaxies, finding […]

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No Sign of Galactic Super-Civilizations

September 22, 2015

‘Dysonian SETI’ is all about studying astronomical data in search of evidence of advanced civilizations. As such, it significantly extends the SETI paradigm both backwards and forwards in time. It moves forward because it offers entirely new search space in not just our own galaxy but galaxies throughout the visible universe. But it also moves […]

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Pluto as ‘Planet’

September 21, 2015

I have never been exactly indignant about the demotion of Pluto to ‘dwarf planet’ status but I do think it’s curious and in at least one respect too arbitrary for my taste. I’ll buy the idea that a planet needs to be round because of its own gravity, and I’ll sign off on the notion […]

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Greg Matloff: Conscious Stars Revisited

September 18, 2015

It’s no exaggeration to say that without Greg Matloff, there would have been no Centauri Dreams. After reading his The Starflight Handbook (Wiley, 1989) and returning to it for years, I began working on my own volume in 2001. Research for that book would reveal Matloff’s numerous contributions in the journals, especially on solar sail […]

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New Look at β Pictoris b

September 17, 2015

Given the scale of our own Solar System, the system circling the star Beta Pictoris can’t help but give us pause. Imagine not only the orbiting clouds of gas, dust and debris that we would expect around a young star (8-20 million years old) with a solar system in formation, but also a gas giant […]

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Enceladus: A Global Ocean

September 16, 2015

Seven years worth of Cassini images of Enceladus have told us what many have long suspected: The intriguing moon does indeed have a subsurface ocean. Not that the presence of water on Enceladus comes as a surprise: The south polar region in the area of the famous ‘tiger stripes’ has long been known to be […]

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