July 2016

An Unusual Pulsating Binary

July 29, 2016

A large part of the fascination of astronomy is the discovery of objects that don’t fit our standard definitions. KIC 8462852 — ‘Tabby’s Star’ — is deeply mysterious and high on my watchlist. But yesterday we also looked at CX330, a so-called FUor of the kind that brightens enormously over years of observation. Today we […]

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CX330: Distant (and Isolated) Star Formation

July 28, 2016

Given that we have fewer than a dozen examples, highly variable stars like the recently discovered CX330 have much to teach us. These stars have been nicknamed FUors, after FU Orionis, a pre-main sequence star that has shown huge variations in magnitude over the past century. Eruptions like these may be common, as Alan Boss […]

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Jupiter’s Great Red Spot as Heat Source

July 27, 2016

Speculating about what an advanced extraterrestrial civilization might do has kept us occupied for the last two days, with gas giants like Jupiter the primary topic of conversation. We don’t know if it’s possible to ignite a gas giant to provide new sources of energy. But with Juno getting ready to measure Jupiter’s aurorae, we’re […]

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SETI: Detecting ‘Stellified’ Objects

July 26, 2016

When Nikolai Kardashev looked into the question of where to find advanced extraterrestrial civilizations, he argued that the obvious starting point would be in the vicinity of extreme astrophysics. Active galactic nuclei (AGN) come to mind, or even the centers of comparatively quiet galaxies like our own. Clément Vidal picked up the same point in […]

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Making Jupiter into a Star

July 25, 2016

The SETI concepts now called ‘Dysonian’ are to my mind some of the most exhilarating ideas in the field. Dysonian SETI gets its name from the ‘Dyson spheres’ and ‘Dyson swarms’ analyzed by Freeman Dyson in a 1960 paper. This is a technology that an advanced civilization might use to harvest the energy of its […]

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Kepler-80: Analysis of a Compact System

July 22, 2016

It’s been a week for unusual planetary systems, and I’ll cap it off with Kepler-80, a star about 1100 light years away that features five planets in extraordinarily tight orbits. Such systems are now being referred to as STIPs (Systems with Tightly-spaced Planets), a nod to our apparently imperishable drive to create acronyms. Whatever we […]

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‘Warm Jupiters’ and Nearby Worlds

July 21, 2016

Where exactly do ‘hot Jupiters’ come from? I usually see explanations involving planetary migration for Jupiter-class objects with tight orbital periods of 10 days or less, the thinking being that such planets are too close to their host stars to have accumulated a Jovian-style gaseous envelope there. Migration explains their placement, with gas giants forming […]

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A Deeper Look at TRAPPIST-1

July 20, 2016

Small red stars are drawing increased attention as we continue to discover interesting planets around them. The past two days we’ve looked at the four worlds around K2-72, a red dwarf about 225 light years out in the constellation Aquarius. That two of these worlds have at least the potential for liquid water on the […]

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Ravi Kopparapu: Looking at K2-72

July 19, 2016

Is the K2-72 system, discussed yesterday as part of a recent exoplanet announcement from Ian Crossfield and colleagues, as intriguing as it looks? Ravi Kopparapu has some thoughts on the matter. Dr. Kopparapu’s work on exoplanet habitability is well known to Centauri Dreams readers — he offered an overview in these pages called How Common […]

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Intriguing System in New Exoplanet Haul

July 18, 2016

Today’s announcement of the confirmation of over 100 planets using K2 data reminds me of how much has gone into making K2 a success. You’ll recall that K2 emerged when the Kepler spacecraft lost function in two of its four reaction wheels. Three of these were needed for pointing accuracy, but ingenious pointing techniques and […]

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