October 2004

New Radio Techniques to Image ‘Super Jupiters’

October 21, 2004

A new sky survey may reveal further evidence of massive ‘super Jupiters’ orbiting distant stars. The National Science Foundation’s Very Large Array (VLA) is being used to conduct the survey at 74 MHz, a frequency far lower than those used for conventional radio astronomy. Normally, Earth’s ionosphere makes low-frequency radio imaging difficult, but the survey […]

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An Antimatter-Driven Sail to the Kuiper Belt

October 20, 2004

NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concepts is in the midst of its 6th annual meeting, at the Grand Hyatt in Seattle. For interstellar theorists, the chief attraction this time around is Steve Howe’s presentation “Antimatter Driven Sail for Deep Space Missions.” The co-founder and chief executive officer of Hbar Technologies, LLC based in Chicago, Howe has […]

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Planet Building More Chaotic Than Expected

October 19, 2004

If planets form the way we used to think — in a relatively smooth condensation out of material surrounding young stars — then the dust discs from which they form should gradually fade from view. Planetary formation, in other words, should scour a solar system, leaving it relatively free of dust; other than their planets, […]

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Laser Propulsion: Leave the Fuel at Home

October 18, 2004

Firing a laser at a metal target causes an explosion of ions that can be harnessed into an exotic form of propulsion. Called ‘laser ablation technology,’ the method is being studied intensively by the Laser Propulsion Group at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. Each pound of material generates five to ten times more thrust […]

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Astronomical Art and the Imagination

October 16, 2004

Patrick Moore and illustrator David Hardy first collaborated in the early 1950s, and by 1954 had drawn up plans to produce a book filled with images of space stations, Mars missions and journeys to the outer Solar System. That book never came together, though the two produced others in the 1970s. Now Moore and Hardy […]

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Beamed Propulsion Opens Up the Solar System

October 15, 2004

Getting a spacecraft to Mars and back in 90 days is one result of developing magnetized-beam plasma propulsion. Mag-beam is the idea of Robert Winglee, whose earlier work on mini-magnetospheric plasma propulsion (M2P2) used the solar wind to push against a plasma bubble created around a spacecraft. Instead of the solar wind, mag-beam uses a […]

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Of Hot Jupiters and Cold Neptunes

October 14, 2004

Planetary systems dominated by huge ‘hot Jupiters’ — the kind of systems we’ve found so far — are unlikely to contain Earth-like worlds. Massive gas giants close to their star would probably disrupt stable planetary orbits further out, in the habitable zone. But systems with large planets in the 5 AU range, where our Solar […]

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Risk and Exploration

October 13, 2004

Presentations from NASA’s “Risk and Exploration: Earth, Sea and the Stars” symposium are now online here. Replays of the various sessions will be available on NASA TV, according to NASA Watch. Particularly germane to the interstellar question is Session Four: Why We Explore.

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Scouting for Nearby Stars

October 13, 2004

Is Proxima Centauri really the closest star? Possibly not, a fact that was driven home just last year with the discovery of the red dwarf SO25300.5+165258 (a catchier name would have helped). At 7.8 light years, this tiny neighbor is the third closest to the Sun, but M-class stars are cool and dim, making them […]

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A New Step for Autonomous Spacecraft

October 12, 2004

NASA’s Earth Observing One (E0-1) satellite has become a testbed for new technologies. Launched in late 2000, EO-1 is now the venue for a test of artificial intelligence; specifically, an AI software package called Livingstone Version 2 (LV2), which can detect and diagnose simulated failures in systems aboard the satellite. “This is the kind of […]

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