June 2016

Calibrating Distances to Low Mass Stars

June 30, 2016

Accurate distances are critical for understanding the physical properties of brown dwarfs and low-mass stars. We need to know the intrinsic brightness of these objects to proceed, but we can’t know that until we have an idea of their distance. After all, a relatively faint star can seem much brighter if nearer to us, while […]

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Deep Stare into a Dusty Universe

June 29, 2016

It’s not often that I get the chance to back up and take a broad look at the universe, the kind of thing that reinforces my interest in cosmology and structure at the grandest scale. But today I’ll take my cue from the Royal Astronomical Society’s annual meeting, now underway in Nottingham UK, which gives […]

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Spacecoach: Toward a Deep Space Infrastructure

June 28, 2016

With manned missions to Mars in our thinking, both in government space agencies and the commercial sector, the challenge of providing adequate life support emerges as a key factor. We’re talking about a mission lasting about two years, as opposed to the relatively swift Apollo missions to the Moon (about two weeks). Discussing the matter […]

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A Photon Beam Propulsion Timeline

June 24, 2016

Breakthrough Starshot’s four-meter sails are the latest (and best funded) concept in a long series of beamed propulsion ideas. As Jim Benford explains below, the idea of beaming to a sail goes back over fifty years, with numerous papers and the beginnings of laboratory work in the intervening decades. What follows is the first cut […]

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Revisiting Enceladus’ Ocean

June 23, 2016

As we saw yesterday, there is a case to be made that the ocean beneath Pluto’s ice is still liquid, based on phase changes in ice under varying pressures and temperatures. Today we turn to another world with interesting oceanic possibilities, Enceladus. Here the data are problematic and contradictory. Flybys by the Cassini Saturn orbiter […]

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Pluto: Evidence for a Liquid Internal Ocean

June 22, 2016

What accounts for Pluto’s interesting landscape? As we accumulate more and more data from New Horizons, we’re seeing a wide range of geologic activity on the surface, most of it involving such volatile ices as nitrogen, carbon dioxide and methane. But look at the troughs and scarps — some of them hundreds of kilometers long […]

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Young Exoplanet Highlights Migration Theories

June 21, 2016

If our Solar System had a ‘hot Jupiter’ that migrated inward after Mars, Earth and Venus had formed, would any of the terrestrial planets have survived? It’s a question worth pondering given how many hot Jupiters we’ve turned up, raising the question of how these planets form in the first place. One possibility is formation […]

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Toward Gravitational Wave Astronomy

June 20, 2016

The second detection of gravitational waves by the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) instruments reminds us how much we gain when we move beyond the visible light observations that for so many millennia determined what people thought of the universe. In the electromagnetic spectrum, it took data at long radio wavelengths to show us the […]

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FU Orionis: Implications of Sudden Brightening for Planet Formation

June 17, 2016

I would like to thank the many Centauri Dreams readers who contributed to the successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a year’s worth of study of KIC 8462852. As I write, there is less than an hour to go, but we have already gone well over the needed $100,000 mark. Congratulations to Tabitha Boyajian, and thanks […]

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Stéphane Dumas (1970 – 2016)

June 17, 2016

The interstellar community is a small one, and reporting the loss of one of our number is not easy. SETI researcher Stéphane Dumas, who had been working with Claudio Maccone on the application of the Karhunen–Loève transform (KLT) for SETI observations, has died unexpectedly at his home in Quebec. I remember a wonderful conversation with […]

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