January 2005

New Sail Design to Reach 60 Kilometers Per Second

January 31, 2005

New Scientist is covering Gregory and James Benford’s intriguing sail concept that would get a spacecraft up to 60 kilometers per second. That’s faster than any spacecraft we’ve ever launched; by comparison, the fastest vehicle out there is Voyager 1, now pushing toward the heliopause at some 17.5 kilometers per second. The brothers Benford (Gregory […]

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A Quote for the Weekend

January 29, 2005

“It was only a few centuries ago that people began to realize that those points of light in the night sky were suns, like our Sun, and like our Sun, they might have planets around them. Many visionaries then dreamed and wrote of visiting those other planets in ships that traveled between the stars. Later, […]

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Interstellar Boundary Explorer Chosen by NASA

January 28, 2005

Our first interstellar mission won’t be a long jump to Alpha Centauri or Barnard’s Star. In fact, we’ve already launched not one but several interstellar missions — the two Pioneer probes, and the two Voyagers that followed them, will all exit the Solar System; i.e., they will eventually cross the boundaries of the heliosphere to […]

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Did a Collision Create Pluto’s Moon Charon?

January 27, 2005

One way to explain the existence of the Moon is through a giant collision, one that tore off enough material to build a satellite in a planetary orbit. Can Pluto and its moon Charon be explained the same way? Robin Canup thinks so. Canup is assistant director of Southwest Research Institute’s Department of Space Studies; […]

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Meteorite Lends Credence to Supernova Hypothesis

January 26, 2005

How do solar systems form? The traditional model has been a slowly condensing cloud of matter within which planetary objects eventually emerge. But that view has been challenged sharply by Yunbin Guan and Laurie Leshin, from Arizona State University. Last year Leshin argued that our own system formed from the violent processes of star-birth within […]

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Study of Sedna Implies Numerous Other Planetoids

January 25, 2005

Exactly how big is the Solar System? We used to talk about Pluto as the outermost planet, implying the Solar System ended when you crossed its orbit. Now we talk in terms of the Kuiper Belt, a band of debris and planetesimals far beyond Pluto’s orbit; beyond the Kuiper Belt looms the vast Oort Cloud, […]

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Glimpses of Titan’s Weather

January 24, 2005

The European Space Agency’s Paris conference on the 21st gave us a further look at Titan’s exotic weather systems. In particular, the Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer carried by Huygens produced data showing the malleable nature of methane on the surface of the frigid world. According to John Zarnecki, principal investigator for the Huygens Surface Science […]

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Remembering Olaf Stapledon

January 23, 2005

“Sooner or later for good or ill, a united mankind, equipped with science and power, will probably turn its attention to the other planets, not only for economic exploitation, but also as possible homes for man… The goal for the solar system would seem to be that it should become an interplanetary community of very […]

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Findings Challenge Definition of Brown Dwarfs

January 22, 2005

New photos from the Very Large Telescope at Paranal in the Chilean Andes have made it possible to measure the mass of a young object orbiting the star AB Doradus A. The low-mass companion to the star has been under study since the early 1990s, when the characteristic wobble of the parent star suggested a […]

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New Data Show Titan’s Complex Weather, Geology

January 21, 2005

ESA’s Paris press conference produced new images and an analysis of data from the six instruments that Huygens took to the surface of Titan. “We now have the key to understanding what shapes Titan’s landscape,” said Dr Martin Tomasko, Principal Investigator for the Descent Imager-Spectral Radiometer (DISR), adding: “Geological evidence for precipitation, erosion, mechanical abrasion […]

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