September 2005

Mystery in the Heart of Andromeda

September 20, 2005

A strange blue light near the core of the Andromeda Galaxy promises to tell us much about black holes and the behavior of objects near them. First spotted in 1995 by the Hubble Space Telescope, the blue light was thought to emmanate from a single, massive star, or possibly an exotic source of energy that […]

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A Shoreline on Titan

September 19, 2005

Peering through Titan’s murky atmosphere with radar, the Cassini orbiter has sent back evidence of what may be a large shoreline on the moon, one where liquids flowed not long ago and may still be present. As shown in the image below, the shoreline divides a bright from a darker, smoother area where liquids seem […]

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Asteroid May Be a Mini-Planet

September 17, 2005

The largest known asteroid, 1 Ceres, is 930 kilometers (580 miles) across, and represents about 25 percent of the asteroid belt’s total mass. Recent work using the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys now shows that the asteroid is nearly round, leading to the belief that it has, like terrestrial planets, a differentiated interior: […]

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Catastrophe in the Early Solar System

September 16, 2005

Centauri Dreams has talked often about what may be the main driver for deep space exploration — the need to protect a vulnerable Earth from catastrophic asteroid or comet strikes. Ongoing work to understand how such impacts fit into the history of the Solar System is revealing much about their nature. Now a team of […]

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Massive Explosion at Edge of Visible Universe

September 15, 2005

Astronomers have detected the most distant explosion ever observed, finding the afterglow of a gamma ray burst that marked the end of a massive star and the probable birth of a black hole. Named GRB 050904, the object’s redshift is 6.29, pegging it as roughly 13 billion light years from Earth. The universe itself is […]

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From Titan to the Encyclopedia Galactica

September 13, 2005

Space artist Jon Lomberg, whose work illustrated yesterday’s entry on the white dwarf star GD 362, wrote recently with a comment on Centauri Dreams‘ September 8 story on Titan. The story discussed new theories on Titan as an abode for life, citing a presentation at the recent Division of Planetary Sciences meeting in Cambridge and […]

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A Vision of the Sun’s Future?

September 12, 2005

The white dwarf star GD 362 has been cooling for up to five billion years. You might think of it as an image of our Sun’s future, although it was originally about seven times more massive. As the Sun’s will do five billion years from now, this star’s core simply ran out of fuel, reaching […]

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Of Interstellar Arks and Nearby Stars

September 10, 2005

How long would it take to get to Alpha Centauri using a solar sail? The fastest travel time I’ve seen calculated is 1000 years. Imagine a reflective sheet only nanometers in thickness attached to the payload with diamond strength cable. A close pass by the Sun (the classic ‘Sun-diver’ maneuver, first called this, as far […]

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Kuiper Belt Worlds Under Scrutiny

September 9, 2005

“Santa,” “Easterbunny,” and “Xena” may be odd names, but they beat the official designations given these objects by the International Astronomical Union — 2003 EL61, 2005 FY9, and 2003 UB313. All three are Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) discovered with the 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory. The last of the three is the now […]

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Life’s Possibilities on Titan Weighed

September 8, 2005

Can there be livable habitats on Titan? A paper just presented at the Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Cambridge makes the case that several key ingredients of life may be present on the huge moon. Titan possesses liquid reservoirs, organic molecules and the needed energy sources. The question: is the environment simply too cold? […]

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