January 2016

Starship Thinking

January 29, 2016

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Ian Crawford (Birkbeck College, London) — I think we last talked at one of the 100 Year Starship events — but I’m pleased to see his latest popular essay How to build a starship – and why we should start thinking about it now. A professor of planetary sciences […]

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Bradley Schaefer: A Response to Michael Hippke

January 28, 2016

The question of a gradual dimming of KIC 8462852 continues to make waves, the most recent response being Michael Hippke’s preprint on the arXiv site, discussed in the post immediately below. Bradley Schaefer (Lousiana State University), who published his work on the dimming he found in now digitized photographs in the archives of Harvard College […]

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KIC 8462852: No Dimming After All?

January 27, 2016

As if the Kepler star KIC 8462852 weren’t interesting enough, Bradley Schaefer (Louisiana State) added to the controversy when he discovered what appeared to be a steady dimming of the star over the past century. Schaefer called the result “completely unprecedented for any F-type main sequence star,” and given the discussion about KIC 8462852 as […]

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In Search of the First Rocket Man

January 27, 2016

If you’re interested enough in space to be reading this site, you’ve probably run into the name of Wan Hu. He’s the subject of a tale that may well be spurious, but it’s certainly lively. It seems that some time around the year 1500 AD, Wan Hu took his fascination with rocketry to the logical […]

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Planet in Widest Orbit Yet Discovered

January 26, 2016

Free floating planets — planets without any star — are exotic things, presumably thrown out of their original solar system by gravitational interactions with other worlds. But the line between such wanderers and bound planets isn’t always clear. A case in point is the object 2MASS J2126, found in an infrared sky survey and at […]

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Proxima Centauri & the Imagination

January 25, 2016

My essay Intensifying the Proxima Centauri Planet Hunt is now available on the European Southern Observatory’s Pale Red Dot site. My intent was to give background on earlier searches for planets around the nearest star, leading up to today’s efforts, which include the Pale Red Dot work using HARPS, the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet […]

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A New Filter for Life’s Survival

January 22, 2016

How do we make out the odds on our survival as a species? Philosopher Nick Bostrom (University of Oxford) ponders questions of human extinction in terms of a so-called Great Filter. It’s one that gives us a certain insight into the workings of the universe, in Bostrom’s view, because it seems to keep the galaxy […]

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Planet Nine: “An Uneasy Exhilaration”

January 21, 2016

In the past few years, several readers have talked to me about changes to the comment format on Centauri Dreams. In particular, some way of setting up comment ‘threads’ seemed to make sense, and there are various plugins to make this happen. Thanks to all for their input, and in particular Michael Spencer and Daniel […]

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Evidence for 9th Planet Unveiled

January 20, 2016

A new planet ten times the mass of Earth deep in the outer system? That’s the word out of Caltech, where Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown report the evidence from computer modeling and simulations, though no planet has yet been directly observed. The planet would orbit 20 times further from the Sun than Neptune, with […]

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Viewing Pluto Over Time

January 20, 2016

Knowing that the data from New Horizons continues to arrive gives me a warm feeling about the months ahead. Below we have the highest resolution color image of one of the two potential cryovolcanoes found on the surface during the Pluto flyby last summer. This is Wright Mons, some 150 kilometers across and 4 kilometers […]

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