May 2016

Rosetta’s Comet: Ingredients for Life

May 31, 2016

The thought that water and organic molecules might have arrived on the early Earth from the impacts of comets and asteroids has long been provocative, and our missions to nearby comets are now paying off with insights into the possibility. It was back in 2004 that the Stardust mission flew past Comet Wild 2, collecting […]

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Kepler-62f: Models for Habitability

May 27, 2016

So often planets described as ‘potentially habitable’ turn out to be over-rated — we look deeper into their composition and characteristics only to find that the likelihood of liquid water on the surface is slim. How to make more accurate calls on the matter of habitability? One way may be to combine orbital and atmospheric […]

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Interstellar Flight in Congressional Report

May 26, 2016

I hadn’t planned the conjunction of the Breakthrough Starshot forum’s opening here on Centauri Dreams and the interesting news out of the NASA budget for 2017, but some things just fall into your lap. In any case, what happened in Washington makes a nice follow-up to yesterday’s post, considering that it calls up visions of […]

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Breakthrough Starshot: ‘Challenges’ Forum Opens

May 25, 2016

Ever since coming back from the Breakthrough Discuss meeting in Palo Alto, I have been pondering the enormous issues the Breakthrough Starshot project will encounter. Getting a tiny spacecraft up to twenty percent of lightspeed is only the beginning of an effort that has to deal with power generation, a phased laser array of enormous […]

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Bradley Schaefer: Further Thoughts on the Dimming of KIC 8462852

May 24, 2016

Is the anomalous star KIC 8462852 undergoing a long-term dimming or not? We’ve looked at Bradley Schaefer’s work on the star and the follow-ups disputing the idea from Michael Hippke and Daniel Angerhausen (NASA GSFC), with collaboration from Keivan Stassun and Michael Lund (both at Vanderbilt University) and LeHigh University’s Joshua Pepper. Dr. Schaefer (Louisiana […]

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A Kickstarter Campaign for KIC 8462852

May 23, 2016

If the star KIC 8462852 is on your mind — and the lively and continuing comments threads on the topic in these pages suggest that it is — you’ll want to know about a new campaign to support further study. ‘Tabby’s Star,’ as it is informally known (after Tabetha Boyajian, whose work at the Planet […]

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Towards Producing Food in Space: ESA’s MELiSSA and NASA’s VEGGIE

May 20, 2016

Before we can go to the stars we’ll need to build a robust infrastructure in our own Solar System. While most attention seems to be devoted to propulsion issues, I’m convinced that an equally critical question is how we can create and sustain closed-loop life support systems for such missions. Our point man on this […]

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Looking for Life Around Red Giant Stars

May 19, 2016

I suppose the most famous fictional depiction of the Sun as it swells to red giant stage is in H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, in a passage where the time traveler takes his device by greater and greater jumps into the remote future. This is heady stuff: I moved on a hundred years, and […]

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Moons of the Outer Dwarf Planets

May 18, 2016

Yesterday’s post on the dwarf planet 2007 OR10 brought comments asking why an object this large hasn’t yet been named. Actually it has been, but only briefly. It was Meg Schwamb, then a graduate student of Caltech’s Michael Brown, who discovered 2007 OR10, and Brown quickly gave it the nickname Snow White — as the […]

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New Work on Dwarf Planet 2007 OR10

May 17, 2016

Although we always think of Kepler — and its successor mission K2 — as an exoplanet observatory, the spacecraft has also been put to work on objects much closer to home. Enter 2007 OR10, a dwarf planet that is currently about twice as distant from the Sun as Pluto. The Kepler instrument is, of course, […]

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