January 2017

Virtual Von Neumann Probes using Self Amplification and Replication of Electromagnetic Signals through Natural Stellar Processes

January 30, 2017

Is it possible to use natural phenomena to boost signals to the stars? In the essay below, Bill St. Arnaud takes a look at the possibilities, noting that civilizations that chose to broadcast information might select a method that mimics by electromagnetic means what the classic von Neumann probe would achieve with physical probes. St. […]

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A Contact between Civilizations in the 19th Century

January 27, 2017

When we contemplate contact scenarios between ourselves and extraterrestrial civilizations, we can profit from remembering our own history. The European arrival in the Americas is often a model, but there are other events of equal complexity. In the essay below, Michael Michaud looks at America’s encounter with Japan to examine how we might react to […]

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Wolf 1061 Unlikely to Host Habitable Worlds

January 26, 2017

A key way to learn more about a given exoplanet is to home in on the properties of its star. So argue Stephen Kane (San Francisco State University) and colleagues in a new paper slated for the Astrophysical Journal. The star in question is Wolf 1061 (V2306 Ophiuchi), an M-class red dwarf some 13.8 light […]

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PROCYON: An Overview of Cometary Water

January 25, 2017

The Japanese PROCYON spacecraft (Proximate Object Close flyby with Optical Navigation) has just given us an interesting case of repurposing a scientific instrument, not to mention drawing value out of a mission whose initial plans had gone awry. Launched together with JAXA’s Hayabusa 2 probe in late December of 2014, PROCYON was to have flown […]

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Probing the Surface of Ceres

January 24, 2017

It doesn’t stretch credulity to hypothesize that the early Earth benefited from an influx of comet and asteroid material that contributed water and organic compounds to its composition. The surface of a world can clearly be affected by materials from other bodies in the Solar System. Now we’re learning that the dwarf planet Ceres may […]

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Jupiter in the Public Eye

January 23, 2017

Have a look at Jupiter as seen by the Juno spacecraft on its third close pass. A view as complex as the one below reminds us how images can be manipulated to bring out detail. This happens so frequently in astronomical images that it’s easy to forget this view is not necessarily what the human […]

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A Vision to Bootstrap the Solar System Economy

January 20, 2017

Early probes are one thing, but can we build a continuing presence among the stars, human or robotic? An evolutionary treatment of starflight sees it growing from a steadily expanding presence right here in our Solar System, the kind of infrastructure Alex Tolley examines in the essay below. How we get to a system-wide infrastructure […]

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A Possible Planet Hidden in the Data

January 19, 2017

One of the great joys of science is taking something that seems beyond reach and figuring out a way to do it. We can use a coronagraph, for example, to screen out much of the light of a star to see planets around it, but coronagraphs can only do so much, as planets too near […]

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A New Context for Complex Life

January 18, 2017

We normally think of the appearance of oxygen on Earth in terms of a ‘great oxygenation event,’ sometimes referred to as the ‘oxygen catastrophe’ or ‘great oxidation.’ Here oxygen begins to emerge in the atmosphere about 2.3 billion years ago as oceanic cyanobacteria produce oxygen by photosynthesis. The actual oxygenation event would be the point […]

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Galactic Interaction: Rivers of Stars

January 16, 2017

Discovered as recently as 1994, the Sagittarius dwarf spheroidal galaxy is a satellite of the Milky Way, and one with an interesting history. One of the nearest of the dwarf galaxies, the Sagittarius dwarf lies 25 kiloparsecs (roughly 82,000 light years) from the center of the Milky Way, and has passed through the disk of […]

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