November 2016

Tight Constraints on Orbit of a Transiting ‘Super-Earth’

November 30, 2016

The super-Earth K2-3d orbits a red dwarf star in the constellation Leo, some 150 light years from Earth. The outermost of three planets discovered in the system, K2-3d was found in the K2 phase of the Kepler mission (K2 Second Light), following the issues with the spacecraft’s reaction wheels that led to the end of […]

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Saturn: ‘Grazing’ the Rings

November 29, 2016

What the Jet Propulsion Laboratory refers to as ‘the first phase of the mission’s dramatic endgame’ begins tomorrow for the Cassini Saturn orbiter. Having given us an ocean within Enceladus and numerous images of Titan’s lakes and seas (not to mention ring imagery of spectacular beauty), Cassini now enters a phase in which it encounters […]

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Freelancing an Interstellar Message

November 28, 2016

The problem in sending intentional signals to the stars isn’t technology. It’s our lack of consensus. Having widespread buy-in on whether, why and how to add an ‘active’ component to SETI is deeply polarizing, at least on the surface. But dig deeper: While there are those who think we should send signals about ourselves to […]

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The Starship in our Future

November 23, 2016

The relentless expansion implicit in the Kardashev scale ranks civilizations according to their use of power, with the notion that there is an upward movement from exploiting the energy resources of a planet to the entire home star and then on to the galaxy (Type III). Hence the interest in trying to observe civilizations that […]

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Looking for ‘Technosignatures’

November 22, 2016

We speculated yesterday that categorizing civilizations on the basis of their power use may not be a given, though it is the basis of the familiar Kardashev types. It seems natural to a rapidly changing technological society like ours that the trend is always upward, a clear path toward harnessing the energies of the home […]

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SETI in the Anthropocene

November 21, 2016

Have we, as some have argued, entered a new ‘age of humanity,’ the so-called Anthropocene? The notion is controversial in many quarters, but it addresses the growing concern about our human influence on the Earth and the nature of planetary change. David Grinspoon’s new book Earth in Human Hands (Grand Central Publishing, 2016) has much […]

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Nearby Super-Earth at GJ 536

November 18, 2016

The discovery of a super-Earth of about 5 Earth masses orbiting the star GJ 536 is a helpful addition to our catalog of nearby red dwarf planets. About 33 light years out, GJ 536b orbits its primary at a distance of 0.06661 AU, an 8.7 day orbit that is too close to be in the […]

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Fast Radio Bursts as Cosmological Probes

November 17, 2016

One of the brightest Fast Radio Bursts seen since the phenomena were first detected in 2001 has been observed by the Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales. Maybe it should come as no surprise that Parkes was involved, given that most of the 18 FRBs that have so far been detected have been found […]

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Pluto: Sputnik Planitia Gives Credence to Possible Ocean

November 16, 2016

We’ve been looking at the idea of an ocean beneath Pluto’s icy surface for some time, including interesting work on the thermal evolution of the dwarf planet’s ice shell from Guillaume Robuchon and Francis Nimmo (University of California at Santa Cruz). Back in 2011, The Case for Pluto’s Ocean looked at their view that the […]

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Project Blue: Imaging Alpha Centauri Planets

November 15, 2016

We know about an extremely interesting planet around Proxima Centauri, and there are even plans afoot (Breakthrough Starshot) to get probes into the Alpha Centauri system later in this century. But last April, when Breakthrough Initiatives held a conference at Stanford to talk about this and numerous other matters, the question of what we could […]

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