June 2005

Pulsars for Deep Space Navigation

June 30, 2005

Getting an interstellar probe to its target involves navigation of a high order. ‘Marker’ stars — stars that are both bright and distant enough to have relatively fixed positions for the duration of the journey — often show up in the scientific literature. Thus Rigel and Antares, both of which are far larger than the […]

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Enormous Outburst Seen by Deep Impact

June 29, 2005

All the observing time on comet Tempel 1 as the Deep Impact spacecraft approaches is really paying off. Scrutinized by ground and space-based telescopes, the comet was seen to emit a small outburst of materials on June 14. Now Deep Impact has seen a much more massive ejection of ice and other particles that occurred […]

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Planet Formation Around TW Hydrae

June 28, 2005

If you want to see planet building happening before your eyes, turn your attention to TW Hydrae. Located 180 light years from the Sun in the constellation Hydra (the water snake), TW Hydrae is ten million years old, a celestial infant, with a mass four-fifths that of the Sun. Now researchers have discovered that the […]

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Hubble Sees Activity on Comet Tempel-1

June 27, 2005

Here’s the Deep Impact target, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope in a dramatic set of images that show a jet of dust blowing away from the comet’s nucleus. At the time the photos were taken — seven hours apart on June 14 — Hubble was 120 million kilometers away; the images come from […]

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Remembering ‘Gateway to Strangeness’

June 25, 2005

One of the earliest appearances of solar sails in the American science fiction magazines was Jack Vance’s “Gateway to Strangeness.” Appearing in the August, 1962 issue of Amazing Stories (two years after Cordwainer Smith’s solar sail story, “The Lady Who Sailed the Soul,” ran in Galaxy), the oddly named tale is actually an account of […]

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Getting Ready for Deep Impact

June 24, 2005

What can you do with a vertical gun range? NASA’s Ames Research Center has one, a three story tall machine that fires objects into the surface of your choice. Of late, Brown University professor of geology Peter Schultz has been using it to fire marble-sized beads into surfaces ranging from dust to ice and snow. […]

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Debris Disk Reveals Hidden Planet

June 23, 2005

An unseen planet is the cause of the unusual geometry of a dusty ring around the star Fomalhaut (HD 216956). So say University of California at Berkeley scientists after examining a detailed, visible light image from the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. What’s striking about the image isn’t the ring itself, but the […]

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Solar Sail Update

June 22, 2005

This statement was released by The Planetary Society at 13:30 EDT: “In the past twenty-four hours, the Russian space agency (RKA) has made a tentative conclusion that the Volna rocket carrying Cosmos 1 failed during the firing of the first stage. This would mean that Cosmos 1 is lost. While it is likely that this […]

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Solar Sail Fails to Reach Orbit

June 22, 2005

The Planetary Society’s servers were slammed yesterday through the launch and aftermath of the Cosmos 1 mission, but the entries again available on Emily Lakdawalla’s more or less official weblog make for grim reading this morning. For that matter, so does the silence that follows her post at 1915 EDT last night, saying that the […]

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Protoplanetary Disks Apparently Common

June 21, 2005

How can a planetary disk form in a region as chaotic as the Orion Nebula? Ponder the disruptive force of stellar winds in the range of two million miles per hour and temperatures above 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The assumption would naturally be that until a place like this settles down, material trying to form into […]

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