March 2006

A River of Stars

March 20, 2006

Centauri Dreams follows studies about dark matter with great interest, given the mysterious nature of the stuff and the fact that it apparently has so much to say about how galaxies form. One way to get a handle on dark matter is to study the positions and velocities of stars in the galaxies themselves, thus […]

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Quantum Fluctuations and Inflation

March 18, 2006

Inflation has always been hard to get one’s thoughts around. If nothing can travel faster than light, then how can the universe itself have expanded from submicroscopic to astronomical size in mere moments? The solution — that while nothing can move through space faster than light, space itself knows no such restriction — is still […]

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An Eclipsing Brown Dwarf Binary

March 17, 2006

Making accurate measurements of distant binary objects isn’t easy, but it helps when the two targets are edge-on as seen from Earth. That sets up an eclipsing binary, and in the case of a newly discovered duo of brown dwarfs in the Orion Nebula, provides helpful information. We now know that the the larger of […]

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Andrew Gould on the Science of Microlensing

March 16, 2006

A recent query about how astronomers work out the mass and radius of planets found through microlensing — such as the so-called ‘super-Earth’ recently discovered 9000 light years from our Sun — prompted Centauri Dreams to query one of the principals in that discovery. Andrew Gould, leader of the MicroFUN collaboration and professor of astronomy […]

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An Early Surprise from Stardust

March 15, 2006

There seems to be an emerging maxim in deep space studies: every new mission will overturn at least one enshrined assumption Thus the early Stardust results, studying the cometary debris from Wild 2. Because comets come out of the outer dark in their long arc toward the inner system, one would expect them to be […]

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An Icy ‘Super-Earth’

March 14, 2006

9000 light years away, a planet thirteen times as massive as the Earth orbits a star half the size of the Sun. At -330 degrees Fahrenheit, the newly discovered planet is one of the coldest worlds ever discovered. And its placement within its solar system is interesting indeed, for the icy object occupies an area […]

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The Color of Pluto’s Moons

March 13, 2006

We have interesting exoplanetary news coming up in tomorrow’s post, but until then let’s talk about Pluto, and the latest Hubble findings about this intriguing system. The two recently found moons are now seen via Hubble imagery to have the same color as Charon, meaning that all three Plutonian satellites are roughly the same shade […]

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New Theory Questions Black Holes

March 11, 2006

New Scientist is running an interesting piece by Zeeya Merali on the the theories of George Chapline (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) and Robert Laughlin (Stanford University), which attempt to explain both dark matter and dark energy in a way that would revise our view of black holes. The duo and their colleagues have examined the […]

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The Geysers of Enceladus

March 10, 2006

A few years ago, the idea of life on Enceladus would have seemed preposterous, but the Cassini orbiter has sent back images suggesting that the Saturnian moon houses reservoirs of liquid water near the surface. And liquid water is intriguing indeed in any discussion of life. “We realize that this is a radical conclusion – […]

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Tuning Up the Arecibo Dish

March 9, 2006

A new seven-pixel radio ‘camera’ installed on the 300-meter Arecibo radio dish two years ago this April has brought extraordinary new sensitivity to the huge radio telescope. Called the Arecibo L-Band Feed Array (ALFA), the system of detectors is being used to image large areas of sky at a much faster rate than before, while […]

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