December 2004

Life-Bearing Planets in the Interstellar Dark?

December 22, 2004

David J. Stevenson, who is George Van Osdol Professor of Planetary Science at CalTech, has an entertaining way with titles. The average scientific paper has a title whose tone is dry, direct and frequently off-putting. Stevenson gives us these, as any scientist must, but give him the chance and he produces the Swiftian “A Modest […]

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Saturnian Moons Continue to Surprise Scientists

December 21, 2004

Cassini’s most interesting view of Titan’s atmosphere to date is shown here, highlighting what appears to be layer after layer of haze. The image is in the ultraviolet and taken from Titan’s night side; the haze layers extend several hundred kilometers above the surface. The region shown here is in Titan’s equatorial region, about 10 […]

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Hunting Antimatter High Above Antarctica

December 20, 2004

Other than high-energy particle accelerators, where on Earth would you look for antimatter? The answer seems to be high above Antarctica. A team of scientists led by Akira Yamamoto of Japan’s High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) is actively hunting antimatter that may be striking the Earth from space. The detector: an instrument carried by […]

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A Thought for the Weekend

December 18, 2004

“We hesitate about where to go from here in space. Yet our delay in exploiting this window of opportunity could close off choices for our descendants if the no-growth paradigm–or a failure of nerve–should come to dominate the industrial nations… Because of our technologies, and the scales of our political and economic organizations, we now […]

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Aerocapture: A Spectacular, Flaming Arrival

December 17, 2004

The nuclear-electric mission to Neptune discussed here on the 14th is one of two now being studied by NASA. The other is powered by chemical rockets and, like Cassini, would use gravity assists to reach Neptune in considerably less time. Its team, led by Andrew Ingersoll of the California Institute of Technology, is working on […]

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Digital Wizardry Captures the Tarantula Nebula

December 16, 2004

Back when I was a kid gawking at images from the Palomar telescope, it seemed that the only way to see farther and better was to build bigger mirrors. We’ve learned how to do that, of course, but new techniques from adaptive optics to space-borne coronagraphs have made it possible to see things never before […]

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Remembering “Out Around Rigel”

December 15, 2004

Every technology appears in a context, meaning there is a cultural dimension to our creations that will shape and, in turn, be shaped by them. Centauri Dreams occasionally looks at stories, novels and films that have shaped our idea of interstellar flight. Today it’s “Out Around Rigel,” by Robert H. Wilson, which ran in the […]

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Terrestrial Worlds in the Alpha Centauri System?

December 14, 2004

More than half of all main sequence stars occur in multiple star systems, and we’ve already found 19 planets in such systems (Tau Bootis and 55 Rho Cancri are examples). But most of our models of planetary formation have been based upon single stars. Are planets common in double star systems? The answer has huge […]

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A Nuclear-Powered Neptune Orbiter

December 12, 2004

The outer planets, worthy science targets in their own right, could also be considered something of a dry run for a true interstellar probe. And now details of a nuclear-powered mission to Neptune are beginning to emerge; they’re coming out of a 12-month planning study funded by NASA and led by Boeing Satellite Systems. Particularly […]

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A Quote for the Weekend

December 11, 2004

“Future historians will give a few paragraphs to the Saturn rockets that took us to the Moon, the shuttle that conquered Low Earth Orbit, and the aerospace plane, but they are likely to spend much more time looking at the underlying principles on which their own civilization was founded. They will know that physical technologies […]

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