November 2005

Miniature Suns and their Planets

November 30, 2005

As if we didn’t already have enough trouble defining what a planet is, astronomers have now discovered a brown dwarf only eight times the mass of Jupiter. Surrounded by a dusty disk, the object is actually smaller than a number of planets already known to be orbiting other stars. Any miniature solar system that formed […]

Read the full article →

Red Dwarf Stars and SETI

November 29, 2005

M-class red dwarfs have never figured prominently in the SETI search. The reason for this is apparent: such stars, of which Proxima Centauri, Earth’s nearest stellar neighbor, is one, are flare stars. The intense radiation from solar flares should cleanse a planetary surface of life, especially given the close proximity of such a planet to […]

Read the full article →

An Antimatter Molecule?

November 28, 2005

With Hayabusa apparently stabilized and ready to begin its return journey to Earth, and with the Falcon-1 launch delayed until mid-December, it’s time to return to research. But not before congratulating the Japanese space agency (JAXA) for the probe’s apparent success in landing on the asteroid Itokawa, collecting surface samples, and lifting off again. These […]

Read the full article →

Antimatter and Its Dangers

November 26, 2005

“It is quite possible to build atmospheric vehicles using an antimatter drive. After all, a tenth of a gram of the stuff could power a family flivver to orbit and back. But no machine is perfect, and even that tiny smidgin of antimatter would devastate the countryside if anything went wrong. When antimatter drives first […]

Read the full article →

Hayabusa Attempts Second Landing

November 25, 2005

The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa evidently managed to land on asteroid Itokawa several days ago after all, according to this from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency: “At the timepoint of Nov. 21, Hayabusa was judged not to have landed on the surface. According to the replayed data, however, it was confirmed that Hayabusa stayed on Itokawa […]

Read the full article →

Falcon Launch Imminent

November 25, 2005

According to this note from Out of the Cradle, the site will feature live blog coverage on the Falcon-1 launch, now scheduled for Saturday. Falcon-1 is the first all new orbital rocket in over a decade, and the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to attempt orbit. Keep an eye as well on the SpaceX […]

Read the full article →

Nuclear Pulse Propulsion Re-Examined

November 24, 2005

Consider two hypothetical spacecraft. The Orion vehicle would have worked by setting off low-yield nuclear devices behind a massive pusher plate, driving forward a payload attached at a safe distance from the pusher (and protected by mind-boggling shock absorbers). Even if we had the nuclear devices at our disposal, agreed to use them for such […]

Read the full article →

From ‘Hot Jupiters’ to Terrestrial Worlds

November 23, 2005

If you’re going to have a conference on exoplanets, there is no better venue than l’Observatoire de Haute-Provence. It was here, just ten years ago, that Mayor and Queloz discovered the first planet orbiting a main sequence star outside our own Solar System. The star was 51 Pegasi, a name that will surely be recalled […]

Read the full article →

New Work on Einstein Rings

November 22, 2005

Hubble’s recent findings about ‘Einstein rings’ remind us of the value of using gravitational lensing to observe distant objects. When light from a distant galaxy is bent by an intervening galaxy, the effect can be to create multiple separate images of the more distant source. But line up the two galaxies exactly and the gravitational […]

Read the full article →

Hayabusa in the Shadows

November 21, 2005

The Japanese Hayabusa spacecraft has always seemed to have a couple of strikes against it, at least in terms of media coverage. Never much in the spotlight, the ambitious attempt to explore and bring back samples from the asteroid Itokawa has been all but eclipsed by China’s recent manned orbital ventures. And Centauri Dreams suspects […]

Read the full article →