May 2006

Yet Another Puzzle from Enceladus

May 31, 2006

Enceladus continues to be an unlikely story, a tiny Saturnian moon jetting icy plumes of what seems to be water vapor from the surface of its south pole. Some believe there is even the potential for life here. But how did the ‘hot spot’ that produces this activity wind up precisely at the pole? We’ll […]

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Science at the Edge of the Solar System

May 30, 2006

The Interstellar Boundary Explorer is clearly a mission whose time has come. Scheduled for launch in 2008 and recently confirmed for mission implementation, IBEX will provide global maps of the distant interactions where the heliosphere (the ‘bubble’ of space carved out by the solar wind) meets the interstellar medium. All of this at a time […]

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Astrobiology Lectures Available Online

May 29, 2006

Centauri Dreams continues to champion innovative tools that get scientific findings out to a broader audience. On that score, be aware of QCShow, a freely downloadable player that synchronizes PowerPoint and PDF presentation materials with audio. We’ve discussed this software before, when QCShow’s parent company, New Mexico-based AICS Research, made sessions from NASA’s Institute for […]

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Two Thoughts for the Weekend

May 27, 2006

“Advanced societies throughout the galaxy probably are in contact with one another, such contact being one of their chief interests. They have already probed the life histories of the stars and other of nature’s secrets. The only novelty left would be to delve into the experience of others. What are the novels? What are the […]

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Of ‘Braneworlds’ and Nearby Black Holes

May 26, 2006

We’re familiar with four dimensions, three spatial and one temporal. But is there a fourth dimension to space? If so, it implies a new way of looking at gravity. So say physicists Lisa Randall (Harvard University) and Raman Sundrum (Johns Hopkins), who have offered a mathematical description of how gravity’s actual effects might differ from […]

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Gravitational Lensing Writ Large

May 25, 2006

Here’s gravitational lensing with an exclamation point. A single quasar is shown in the Hubble photograph below as five star-like points. Gravitational lensing occurs when the gravitational field of a massive object bends and amplifies the light from a much further object behind it. And although we’ve had numerous examples of such lensing, this is […]

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A Provocative Antimatter Strategy

May 23, 2006

Ponder how difficult current antimatter work is. We produce the stuff in our particle accelerators and rely on extracting antiparticles from collision debris. One in about 105 proton collisions actually produces an antiproton that can be collected. This is why we see figures like $62.5 trillion per gram (some estimates are even higher) for antiproton […]

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An All But Invisible Supernova

May 22, 2006

What exactly is the object astronomers have discovered 30,000 light years away in the constellation Cepheus? The Spitzer Space Telescope found it, but the source only shows up in mid-infrared images as a re-orange blob. Scan the same region of sky in visible light or near-infrared and you see absolutely nothing, and x-ray and radio […]

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New Collaboration Bags First Planet

May 20, 2006

One of the most exciting things about the exoplanet hunt is that it isn’t confined to huge observatories, nor does it demand bankrolling by billionaires. Consider the news that a team of professional and amateur astronomers has collaborated on a new planetary find, using off-the-shelf equipment and modest telescopes. The Jupiter-sized world orbits a Sun-like […]

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Kerala’s Unusual Rain

May 19, 2006

The red rain that fell in the Indian state of Kerala continues to create interest. Are the particles found suspended within it extraterrestrial in nature? The rain first fell on the 25th of July, 2001, but red rain phenomena continued to occur for two months thereafter, although in some cases other colors appeared, and there […]

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