April 2017

Cassini Through the Gap

April 27, 2017

Sometimes it pays to step back and try to look at spaceflight with fresh eyes. Go out and find Saturn in the sky and consider it as the ancients did, a moving celestial ember. And as you stand there, realize all over again that we’ve built a spacecraft that has been operating around that world […]

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Speculations on Habitable Zone Waterworlds

April 26, 2017

What to make of Fergus Simpson’s new paper on waterworlds, suggesting that most habitable zone planets are of this type? If such worlds are common, we may find that most planets in the habitable zones of their stars are capable of evolving life, but unlikely to host technological civilizations. An explanation for the so-called ‘Fermi […]

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Further Work on TRAPPIST-1

April 25, 2017

A closely packed planetary system like the one we’ve found at TRAPPIST-1 offers intriguing SETI possibilities. Here a SETI search for directed radio transmissions aimed at the Earth gives way to an attempt to overhear ongoing activity within another stellar system. For it’s hard to conceive of any civilization developing technological skills that would turn […]

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Breakthrough Listen Data Becoming Available

April 24, 2017

Andrew Siemion (Berkeley SETI Research Center) presented results from the first year of the Breakthrough Listen initiative last Thursday at the Breakthrough Discuss meetings in Palo Alto. The data can be acquired here, with the caveat that file sizes can be gigantic and the data formats demand specialized software. Background information and details are available […]

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On Breakthrough Discuss

April 19, 2017

Although I hadn’t thought I would get a post off today, I do want to get this Breakthrough Initiatives news release out about the upcoming Breakthrough Discuss meeting. Pay particular attention to the online options for participating. BREAKTHROUGH INITIATIVES TO HOST WORLD-RENOWNED SCIENTISTS AND SCHOLARS IN SUMMIT ON LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE AND SPACE EXPLORATION […]

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Mission Concepts: Bound Orbits around Other Stars

April 18, 2017

Can we use a laser array to get a fast probe to another star? Breakthrough Starshot relies upon the notion, which was first advanced by Robert Forward all the way back in 1962, and subsequently considered by George Marx in 1966, along with hosts of researchers since. With beamed energy we leave the propellant behind, […]

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Proxima Mission: Fine-Tuning the Photogravitational Assist

April 17, 2017

Deceleration has always been problematic in projected schemes for interstellar travel. A flyby of a star at a substantial percentage of lightspeed yields a fraction of the data that would be obtainable by a probe slowed into orbit in the target system. But how to slow down? In particular, how do you slow down when […]

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New Findings on Enceladus, Europa

April 14, 2017

Jim Green, who is director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA headquarters, clearly loves his job, and he got so excited during Thursday’s news conference that he kept interchanging Enceladus with Europa in his remarks. Both were in play during the discussion, and the context made it clear what he intended, but I always […]

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Investigation of a Possible Dwarf Planet

April 13, 2017

Astronomical investigations can overlap in extremely helpful ways. Consider the Dark Energy Survey, which examines some 12 percent of the sky in an attempt to learn more about whatever force is accelerating the expansion of the universe. DES is trying to map hundreds of millions of galaxies and identify thousands of supernovae while looking for […]

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NIAC 2017: Interstellar Implications

April 12, 2017

I always look at the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) awards with interest as well as a bit of nostalgia. When I began researching the book that would become Centauri Dreams, NIAC was an early incentive. Then known as the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts, it was under the direction of Robert Cassanova (this was […]

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